Mark Webber was quickest for Red Bull Racing today [Thursday] as the final pre-season test began at Barcelona ahead F1 2010.

Webber's best effort was a 1 minute 21.487 seconds, which left him around a second up on his closest rival and with weather conditions significantly better than the previous two tests in Jerez he did just over 100 laps - despite a minor gearbox issue.

The Aussie will now hand over the Renault-powered RB6 to team-mate, Sebastian Vettel, before resuming work on the fourth and final day on Sunday.

"We had a pretty good day of testing," Webber reflected. "We did some simulations and performance items in the morning and a race simulation in the afternoon. We had a precautionary stop in the middle of the race simulation because of a gearbox oil alarm, but the guys got the car turned around pretty quickly and we finished the session, so it wasn't too bad."

"Today was always planned as a race weekend simulation day, so we did some testing along with P3 and qualifying in the morning and a race simulation in the afternoon," added Red Bull's head of race engineering, Ian Morgan.

"Everything went very well up until halfway through the race simulation, when something in the data made us decide to stop the car on track. It was nothing major though and we got the car repaired and back out until the end of the session. It went well today, apart from that small reliability issue."

Nico Hulkenberg meanwhile was second and 'best of the rest' for Williams. He did 82 tours, his quickest a 1m 22.407s.

Nico Rosberg was next up for Mercedes, one tenth slower than his fellow countryman. He spent much of the day focusing on set-up work with the MGP W01 car over longer runs alongside working on the team's race weekend procedures including qualifying and pit stop simulations. Michael Schumacher will replace Rosberg for day two.

"We had a productive day today and we were able to learn a great deal from doing so many laps," said Rosberg, who did 107 tours in total. "We're making good use of the testing time that we have and I'm feeling quite confident and comfortable in the car.

"Aerodynamically the car will change quite significantly for the first race in Bahrain so we're not focusing on the details but on general set-up work and seeing how the car behaves over long runs. Working through the race weekend procedures and pit stops is also very useful in our preparations for Bahrain."

Further down the order Pedro de la Rosa and Jenson Button came in fourth and fifth respectively, both posting times in the 1 minute 23 second bracket, the former three tenths quicker for Sauber.

"We did an aero test for Bahrain and were trying to get the car's balance right for the Circuit de Catalunya, which is a demanding track with lots of bumps," de la Rosa explained. "I think we learned a lot today and we are now looking forward to tomorrow."

"Today we have been concentrating on different mechanical set-ups and different downforce levels in preparation for the Bahrain Grand Prix," added Sauber technical director, Willy Rampf. "We are not satisfied with the car's balance yet, but we have recorded a great deal of useful data which will help us further improve it."

Button was also concentrating on set-up work and in total he did 101 laps. Furthermore while he did not set any headline times, the McLaren team declared itself 'pleased' having gained a greater understanding of the behaviour of the Bridgestone tyre over a long run.

Button will now sit out day two, before returning to the cock-pit of the MP4-25 on Saturday. Lewis Hamilton is scheduled to run on Friday and Sunday.

Vitantonio Liuzzi rounded out the top six for Force India and with the track deemed to be relatively 'green' he concentrated on pit stop practice, drills and general set-up work. The Italian will continue for a second day tomorrow before Adrian Sutil takes over for days three and four.

"Once we realised the track was really green and not good enough to conduct some useful testing, we concentrated on set-up and pit stop practice to get back into the rhythm of a race weekend," Liuzzi recalled. "Overall it was quite OK but we concentrated a lot on the pit stop practice to get the guys back up to speed. Tomorrow will be where we move to look at performance and long runs so it should be a more representative day regarding the pace of the new car."

"The first day of our final pre-season test was concentrated on race team pitstop practice, with simulations of live race stops and various different race scenarios conducted through the day. The circuit conditions weren't particularly good today, and tomorrow will be used to continue our set-up and development programme," added Force India's chief race engineer, Dominic Harlow.

Ferrari new boy Fernando Alonso was seventh and while the Spaniard missed several hours this morning due to an electronic glitch, he still did 74 tours in total, evaluating some new aerodynamic modifications in the afternoon, including a long fin on the bonnet, similar to the one used on the F2008 two years ago.

"It wasn't a perfect day, but it was very helpful nevertheless," Alonso told Ferrari's official website. "We had several new things in the car and we collected some data to see how they work. Now we've got to understand how to exploit them. The track wasn't great today. A little dirty and wind. It's always interesting to drive on a circuit, where you'll also have a Grand Prix, because you start seeing some aspects you'll have to deal with later on. All in all I'd say it was a good day."

Vitaly Petrov trailed the Ferrari, only three thousandths slower and like Alonso he did 74 laps. He will hand the Renault R30 over to ex-BMW Sauber man Robert Kubica now, before returning to the fold on Saturday.

"The track conditions were pretty good today and it was nice not to have to drive in the rain!" said Petrov. "The day went quite well and we did a lot of pit-stop practice to begin with and then some set-up work, which was useful."

"We spent part of the morning doing pit-stop practice with Vitaly, which went very well," added Renault's chief engineer, Alan Permane. "This was the first chance for our pit crew to practice with a running car at the circuit without refuelling and there were no procedural problems. Unfortunately we had a hydraulic problem in the early afternoon, which meant we had to change part of the hydraulic system and that limited our running. But we were still able to do some set-up work as we concentrated on getting Vitaly comfortable in the car on this circuit."

Of the rest Jaime Alguersuari was ninth, followed by F1 2010 newcomers Virgin and Lotus, Lucas di Grassi in action for the former, while Fairuz Fauzy ran for the latter.

di Grassi had a tough day and was limited to just 31 laps after spinning off at turn nine. The squad now faces a long night to replace the damaged parts ready for Timo Glock to continue the programme on Friday.

"We are continuing to debug the car hydraulics and making good progress in our understanding of the issue. Unfortunately when we were running some experimental control settings on the car, which were adversely affecting its handling, this caught Lucas out on the entry to turn nine resulting in a spin and contact with the barrier," Virgin technical director, Nick Wirth confirmed.

"We're going to need to spend the time before tomorrow replacing some broken suspension and wings. We should be back on track tomorrow morning when we hope to really start building up our mileage."

In contrast to di Grassi, both Alguersuari and Fauzy managed a good amount of laps. Indeed Alguersuari did 111 tours, the most of anyone runner, focusing on set-up and evaluating a new braking system.

"It was encouraging to have another trouble free day, completing a high mileage," said Alguersuari. "We learned a lot doing long runs on the soft compound tyre and I'm looking forward to tackling a different programme tomorrow."

To see the Barcelona day one times CLICK HERE.


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