Nico Rosberg lived up to the promise that he made between the season's first and second Formula One group tests in Valencia and Jerez by putting his Mercedes GP Petronas entry at the top of the times on day one in southern Spain.

The first of eight days of testing at the circuit over the next eleven days was blighted by showers that came and went throughout, leaving the circuit too wet for slick-shod running after the opening hour.

Rosberg began the test for the Mercedes team and just had time to complete a couple of short runs in the dry before the rain arrived and the programme was changed accordingly. Using wet and intermediate tyres, the German gave the MGP W01 its first run-out in inclement conditions, completing 57 laps over the day but relying on a fastest time of 1min 20.927secs which was set in the dry of the early morning. A minor mechanical problem late in the day brought out a red flag that caused the session to be called off slightly ahead of schedule.

"The car felt very good today," Rosberg, who will hand over to team-mate Michael Schumacher on Thursday, commented, "Compared to Valencia, where I was sitting too low - which affected my visibility - and where the set-up wasn't perfect, today I felt really comfortable and I could push, so it was an enjoyable day and a good start to the test for me.

"Our objective here is to learn as much as possible, put miles on the car and engine to check the reliability and to make progress on our set-up work. The rain is a little frustrating, but the car feels good to drive and that's what's important."

Similarly, Sebastien Buemi's best time of the day was set in that early dry period, but proved good enough to keep the Swiss driver and his Toro Rosso team best of the rest behind Rosberg as the STR5 had its first taste of running in the wet and everyone sampled Bridgestone 2010 tyres. The intermediates are a new tyre, with the front sharing the same narrow width as the dry tyres, while the extreme wets are the same tyres as in 2009 but mounted on narrower rims.

Switching between the two types of tyre, Buemi also evaluated mechanical set-up suited to the wet conditions, as well as carrying out some launch simulations. The car ran reliably all day and the Toro Rosso day ended slightly ahead of the final chequered flag as the entire wet running programme had been completed. Buemi continues driving tomorrow.

Nico Hulkenberg again provided encouragement for the Williams team, posting the third best time of the day as he grew more accustomed to the new FW32, lapping a handful of tenths slower than Buemi, but a similar distance ahead of the Valencia pacesetter Fernando Alonso

Alonso worked mainly on the overall reliability of Ferrari's F10, and on the performance of the two types of tyre available for the wet conditions. The Spaniard covered a total of 88 laps during the day, with a quickest time of 1min 22.895secs, having ventured out for his first run on the dry track with a set of tyres already used in Valencia last week. With the rain arriving, however, the team decided to anticipate some work on the gearbox, originally planned during the lunch break.

Sauber's 23-year-old rookie Kamui Kobayashi posted the fifth best time was at the wheel of the lone C29-Ferrari, but the entire team was frustrated at the arrival of the wet weather as it meant shelving a great deal of its planned programme. The Japanese driver completed 55 laps nevertheless, posting a best time of 1min 23.287secs, but will hope for better conditions when he continues testing on day two.

"Sadly the weather conditions were not as we would have liked and, because of this, we had to skip some mechanical and aero testing," head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall'Ara confirmed, "Most of the time, Kamui was running on intermediates, but we did some set-up work, system checks and start practice."

The dry start to the day permitted aerodynamic measurements of the new McLaren to be taken as planned, with short runs featuring instrumentation on the car to gauge flow structures. From mid-morning onwards, the weather turned and drizzle prompted the team to switch world champion Jenson Button to alternative programmes for running in the wet.

The opportunity afforded Button time to acclimatise to the MP4-25 in terms of engine and gearbox mapping and general set-up while, in the afternoon, the team were able to engage in brake material development. Various types of materials were tested, allowing Button to determine which he preferred in extreme weather conditions.

Force India's new VJM03 made its official testing debut with Tonio Liuzzi was on driving duty and, despite the mainly wet conditions, covered more than 300km in a largely trouble-free run.

The team's programme focused on system familiarisation in the morning and then balance runs in the afternoon and, in spite of the weather, was able to finish the plan and create a solid platform for the rest of the test. Liuzzi will continue behind the wheel tomorrow, before Adrian Sutil takes over on Friday and Saturday. New reserve driver Paul di Resta will get his hands on the VJM03 on 17 February.

"Today was definitely a good beginning to our testing programme," Liuzzi commented, "It was mainly about getting comfortable in the car, running through the systems. We did more than 70 laps and the car was reliable with no big issues, which is a very good starting point. Unfortunately, we did just three laps in the dry in the morning before it started to rain. We are however pretty happy with how the day ended and now are looking forward to tomorrow where, hopefully, the weather will be better."

Renault newcomer Vitaly Petrov had also hoped for more dry weather as he attempted to put more miles under his belt before handing over to team leader Robert Kubica on Friday.

"The weather was really poor today, with lots of rain, so we did limited running," the Russian commented, "I usually enjoy driving in the wet, but it was annoying to loose so my much track time to the weather. Hopefully we will have better conditions later in the week."

"The bad weather meant it was a frustrating day for us as we only managed to complete one dry run this morning on scrubbed tyres," chief engineer Alan Permane confirmed, "We then spent some time doing systems checks in the garage and discovered a small problem with the brake system, which we managed to fix by the end of the day. Looking ahead to tomorrow, Robert will be in the car and, fortunately, the weather forecast looks a lot better."

All eyes were on the latest car to have been unveiled ahead of the 2010 season, as Red Bull took the wraps off its RB6 and Mark Webber was charged with giving it a shakedown run. Sadly, the Australian brought out the day's first red flag after slowing to a halt on track, the victim of an oil leak that led to a precautionary engine change. With the rain arriving not long afterwards, Webber was unable to progress up the timesheet, ending up ninth of the ten runners after his 50 laps yielded a best of 1min 26.502secs.

"It was great to finally see the car in action after a long winter with no testing", head of race engineering Ian Morgan admitted, "Everything ran very smoothly this morning and the build of the car was very structured, so it's frustrating that a problem with a simple component late morning forced an engine change later in the day, as it cost us quite a lot of time.

"However, the most disappointing thing today was the weather - it's good to have a test in the wet, but it's not ideal when it's your first. We're hoping for better conditions tomorrow when we will continue working through the new car system checks."

Virgin Racing brought up the rear of the field after completing a day largely turned over to installation laps, with Timo Glock ending up some twelve seconds adrift of Webber's best.

To maximise the benefit of new parts developed as a result of data collected at last week's Silverstone shakedown, the team pushed on through the night and into the morning to ensure that the VR-01 was fully updated for its first day in the public testing glare but, unfortunately, the downtime meant that the one hour of early dry running was missed. Glock eventually took to a wet circuit at 1310hrs and the team limited his running to a further two very short runs to ensure the car was ready for a full day of testing on Thursday, again with Glock at the wheel before Lucas di Grassi takes over for the final two days.

"We've completed some short installation runs today without any car-related issues, but a few new parts arrived here quite late yesterday and so the only option was for everyone to work through the night," technical director Nick Wirth confirmed, "Sadly, that meant we missed the dry window, and we are not at a point where it is worth risking the car in wet running. As a result, we've kept things sensible and worked through the job list to prepare the car for tomorrow.

"Timo's early feedback has been as it was at Silverstone, so we all look forward to a solid day of running tomorrow. It's ironic that the weather was better on Friday in Silverstone than it has been for most of today!"

"It's great to be back in the car and to have the chance to open it up a bit around a few full laps of the track," Glock added, "It's early days but I'm encouraged by what I've experienced so far and, in particular, the fact that we haven't had any reliability issues on the first day of our first proper test. A big thank you to the guys for working all through the night. I hope they can get some sleep tonight so we can all start to put the car through its paces tomorrow."

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment