Nico Rosberg posted the fastest time today at Barcelona for Mercedes as the final pre-season test for F1 2010 moved into its penultimate day.

Rosberg's best effort was a 1 minute 20.686 seconds, which left him more than seven tenths up on his closest rival. In the end the German did almost 600 kilometres - 128 laps, the most of anyone runner - despite intermittent rain throughout the morning.

He spent the day working on qualifying simulations and developing the cars set-up before completing a race simulation exercise in the afternoon. Rosberg's team-mate, record-breaking multiple F1 world champion Michael Schumacher will now take over the MGP W01 tomorrow for the fourth and final day.

"We had a good day today and made some significant progress in terms of set-up which was nice to see," said Rosberg. "We hadn't got the most out of the car in terms of performance over the last couple of days, but we made a step in the right direction today.

"We went through some big changes this morning step by step and found some good improvements. The longer runs this afternoon were interesting. We learnt a lot as there were other cars running similar programmes at the same time so we were able to do some comparisons. There is still plenty of room to improve but overall we're looking in pretty good shape."

Sebastien Buemi meanwhile was second and 'best of the rest' in his Toro Rosso STR5. It was his first day in action after Jaime Alguersuari ran on days one and two, and even though conditions were mixed he was happy.

"Despite the rain, my first day in Barcelona has gone well," said Buemi. "Carrying out a race simulation was very useful and it was particularly interesting to see how the tyre behaviour changed depending on the fuel load. In the races, it will be important to drive smoothly, as on full tanks it is very easy to damage the tyres if you slide too much. Today was good and so we can try and improve a bit more tomorrow, our last chance before Bahrain."

Jenson Button was next up for McLaren, just four hundredths off Buemi, on a 1m 21.450s. He opted to do a number of short installation runs this morning due to the weather, before completing a race simulation in the afternoon. Button will be replaced by Lewis Hamilton for day four.

Further down the order Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa came in fourth and fifth respectively, the former maintaining the promise shown by his Williams team-mate Nico Hulkenberg on Thursday and Friday. Hulkenberg was of course quickest on day two, and second on day one.

"We covered 101 laps today, which is always good," said Barrichello. "Unfortunately, we had some rain during the day which affected the programme a little bit. Everything that the team has brought to this test seems to be working well though, so it's been a positive day altogether."

Felipe Massa, who took over from Fernando Alonso, was also content with his day and like Barrichello did over 100 tours.

"We managed to drive many miles and that is positive," Massa told Ferrari's official website. "We finished another race simulation without any problems, which helped us to better understand the tyre behaviour with different fuel loads and under different track conditions. I'm satisfied with today. We're working in the right direction for the start of the Championship.

"Let's hope the weather improves now for tomorrow. It would be good to finish the test on a dry track to collect some more important data regarding the car under various conditions - and also with less fuel on board."

Vitaly Petrov rounded out the top six in his Renault R30 - and despite only doing 23 laps this morning, he ended the day having chalked up 68 in total. Robert Kubica will now conclude the test for the Regie on Sunday.

"Another day of changing weather so we lost some time in the morning with the rain, but fortunately it was dry in the afternoon," Petrov reflected. "We had a lot planned as it was my last day in the car before Bahrain and we did some good work and we've improved the car quite a bit. The qualifying simulation was useful and it was important I did this before the first race."

"It was a better day for Vitaly," added Renault's chief engineer, Alan Permane. "We had a few issues with the car in the morning that we carried over from yesterday, but we very quickly got on top of them. The car was then much to his liking just before lunch.

"Unfortunately we had a little bit of rain again this morning, but managed some work in the afternoon carrying various fuel loads and Vitaly finished the day quite happy with the car. It's a shame that he couldn't have run a bit more today, but it was good to get a decent day of running."

Force India's Adrian Sutil and Sebastian Vettel were seventh and eighth - the latter only doing 51 laps for Red Bull Racing having sat out most of the morning session due to rain and technical problems. Vettel will continue tomorrow, although he will share the RB6 with Mark Webber.

"We were late out this morning as we had a few technical issues following the overnight rebuild, which carried over into the planned programme for today," confirmed Red Bull Racing's head of race engineering, Ian Morgan. "Once we were running in the afternoon we got three or four positive tests completed looking at set-up directions for Bahrain, which gave us some clear results - so we ended the session in much better shape."

Of the rest, Jarno Trulli was ninth in his Lotus, followed by the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and Virgin's Timo Glock.

Trulli completed a full race distance and that left Lotus technical chief Mike Gascoyne a happy man: "Another productive day with Jarno; over a hundred laps completed with no real mechanical issues and Jarno was able to complete the full race distance in the mix of wet and dry weather.

"We successfully completed our whole programme with the changeable conditions and have had two very useful days with Jarno in the car, with a very clear set up direction from him. Now we're looking forward to further refining the balance of the car with Heikki [Kovalainen] tomorrow."

Like Trulli, Kobayashi also did over 100 laps: "Certainly it would have been more convenient to do the race simulation with ideal track conditions," reflected the Sauber man. "However, on the other hand it was an even better practice because we had to do additional tyre changes due to the weather, and every pit stop helps to improve our skills in communications and procedures. So I think it was a very productive day, and anyway tomorrow we expect better weather."

Glock and Virgin in contrast had another frustrating day with problems limiting them to just 31 laps: "A couple of assembly issues affected our programme today," Virgin technical director, Nick Wirth explained. "The gearbox problem delayed our start and by the time we were ready to run, the rain came along.

"We used the changeable conditions up to lunchtime working through a programme of control system preparation for Bahrain and we were looking forward to a more productive afternoon. However, lunchtime checks revealed a cut fuel system seal, which meant we had to pull the engine off to replace it.

"We used the remaining time this afternoon to complete a few more interesting tests with Timo. We're hoping that our planets will align tomorrow to allow us a smooth final day of testing before we head into our debut Grand Prix in Bahrain in two weeks' time."

To see the Barcelona day three times CLICK HERE.


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