Defending F1 World Champion Jenson Button finally lived up to the No.1 adorning the nose of his new McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 on the fourth and final day of testing at Jerez de la Frontera today - as he concluded the second group session around the southern Spanish circuit on top of the order.

The British star wound up just over two tenths of a second quicker than Robert Kubica aboard the consistently impressive new Renault R30, with star 2009 debutant Kamui Kobayashi again catching the eye by lapping a close third-fastest for Sauber-Ferrari, with all three drivers completing more than 100 laps as - in distinct contrast to earlier in the week - the weather happily remained dry.

Force India F1's Vitantonio Liuzzi was next up half a second further back in fourth, as the Italian focussed his efforts on set-up work and getting a handle on the behaviour of the Mercedes-powered VJM03 with the heavier fuel loads necessitated by the refuelling ban coming into force in the top flight this year.

"Today was a really productive day for us," the 28-year-old confirmed. "We covered 80 laps without any issues and got through our programme of test items for this week. Everything went pretty well - we worked on understanding the car's performance with different fuel loads and ran through some set-up changes, and the car is responding well.

"We still need to work on the tyres over the longer runs, and will continue this at the next test in Barcelona. Overall I think we can be very satisfied with how this test has gone, and can look forward to another good test next week."

"A good day to finish the eight days of testing in Jerez," concurred the ever-improving Silverstone-based squad's chief race engineer Dominic Harlow. "Tonio completed a broad programme of set-up tests, and we are satisfied with what was learned.

"We've made good progress this week, having tidied up some reliability issues and developed our set-up options with the VJM03. The team has begun its race preparation in earnest, and we will head to Barcelona to continue this work over the final test before the first race of 2010."

Fifth-quickest at the close of play - for the second day in a row - was Nico Rosberg for Mercedes Grand Prix, four tenths down again on Liuzzi. Chassis set-up work over longer runs alongside a tyre comparison programme was the order of the day for the young German, and after some 130 laps the 24-year-old professed himself encouraged by continuing progress.

"We've had a very positive day today," he affirmed, "and were able to complete a lot of valuable mileage, which is a great way to end the tests here at Jerez. We've made some good progress on our set-up comparisons, and learnt a lot which will be useful to prepare for the final test in Barcelona. Being able to get the laps in dry conditions has been very helpful for me to get used to the car and systems."

"The past two weeks in Jerez have seen an intensive period of testing for Mercedes," agreed the Brackley-based outfit's team principal Ross Brawn, "and it is very pleasing to have ended the test programme with two days of very valuable dry running for Nico and Michael [Schumacher].

"Although the conditions haven't been ideal over the two tests, we have been able to make good progress on the set-up of the car and completed a number of our systems evaluations. We still have a great deal of work ahead of us in Barcelona next week, but overall we're looking in good shape for the start of the season."

Double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso was just behind Rosberg in sixth, and the home hero left the circuit satisfied having covered almost 1,200km over his two days inside the cockpit of Ferrari's F10. The Oviedo native's set-up work and grand prix simulation were interrupted a little by some red flags, but overall he revealed himself happy with the way things are going as Bahrain approaches apace.

"I think that someone showed his muscles today, while we didn't," he enigmatically opined. "We'll see in Barcelona - when we'll show up with the latest updates - where we are compared to the others. We can say that we're on the right path. Over these two days in the dry I could drive many miles, and I'm satisfied by the car's performance and reliability. The F10 is growing very well and there's nothing that should worry us.

"We worked on long runs today, and the signs we got are really positive. Naturally we have to improve, because we're not at the max, but we're getting there. Where do we have to improve? There's always something to do, but telling you would mean I'd be like a goalie telling you about his weak point so all the strikers would hit there!"

Jaime Alguersuari put Scuderia Toro Rosso seventh on the timesheets, as Alonso's young countryman conducted aerodynamic evaluations and a race simulation, completing the equivalent of more than two full race distances in the Ferrari-powered STR5 over the course of the day - for which the 19-year-old's intense winter physical training programme clearly paid dividends.

"These past two days in the car have been successful," he remarked, "and it was good that the weather improved, so I could manage to drive in the dry. The most important aspect is that the car ran reliably, which was our main target here at Jerez. It puts us in good shape to tackle the final test in Barcelona."

"That is encouraging on the reliability front," added the small Faenza-based concern's chief engineer, Laurent Mekies. "Even with the rain interrupting our programme this week, it has been quite a useful test, working on both dry and wet weather basic set-up. However, there is still a fair amount of work to do before the first race in Bahrain, and we hope to get a lot more testing miles under our belt in Barcelona next week."

Friday pace-setter Mark Webber made it two Red Bull-backed cars in swift succession just over a tenth of a second further back in a comparatively lowly eighth spot, as the Australian got down to some long runs to evaluate three different Bridgestone tyre compounds. Following three successful runs, an engine failure unfortunately brought a premature halt to the 33-year-old's fourth run, costing him and Red Bull Racing some two-and-a-half hours whilst a replacement powerplant was fitted, allowing for one final long run later in the day.

"The weather was a lot kinder to us over the last two days and we learned a hell of a lot, no question about it," reported the man from New South Wales. "We did a lot of stuff with [engine-supplier] Renault and also learned about the aerodynamics and the chassis; there were lots of things we kept throwing into the fire and we kept learning, so that was good. We need a nice clear run in Barcelona and a little more reliability there, and we're ready to go racing."

"It was a frustrating test with the wet weather over the first two days," reflected RBR head of race engineering Ian Morgan, "but having two dry days at the end was good and enabled us to get some good mileage on the car. Next week's test in Barcelona will concentrate on our final preparations before Bahrain, including some race simulations."

F1 2010 rookie Nico H?lkenberg ended proceedings ninth for Williams, ahead of former Toyota team-mates Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli for respective newcomers Virgin Racing and Lotus. The latter was making his testing debut for the Anglo/Malaysian operation and the 35-year-old Italian was soon out on-track, going on to exceed his objective with 141 laps on the clock when the chequered flag ultimately fell.

"It was a very positive day," stated the former Monaco Grand Prix-winner. "I'm really happy about my first day testing with Lotus, and I was very lucky to have everything right on the car today with no major issues. We were able to put a lot of mileage on the car and get a lot of information out of it. I had the chance to start developing a real feel for the car, and it's good to be here."

"An excellent day today, concentrating on reliability and race pace," added Lotus F1 chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. "One hundred-and-forty one laps from Jarno is a great effort when you consider it's his first day driving this year, and also a great effort from the team who worked all night to get the car prepared.

"Overall, it's been a very encouraging four days. The main aim of the test was reliability, and over the last two days of dry running we have found some directions on set-up that will enable us to concentrate on the pace of the car in Barcelona."

To see the day's testing times in full, click here


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