Lewis Hamilton found his and McLaren-Mercedes' preparations for the F1 2011 World Championship campaign hampered and frustrated on day three of four at Jerez de la Frontera by a lack of spare parts for the MP4-26 – but there were no such issues for chief rivals Ferrari and Red Bull Racing.
Hamilton found himself limited to just 36 laps of the southern Spanish circuit as on-the-spot repairs were effected, with the relevant new components due to be delivered overnight ahead of Sunday's running. Despite that, the British star reported positive progress with regard to set-up and understanding tyre performance, and ran with the new-for-2011 drag reduction system ahead of focussing fully on the adjustable rear wing at next week's Barcelona test. Team-mate Jenson Button will take over on day four.
Meanwhile, at Ferrari, double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso delighted his partisan supporters trackside by remaining at the head of the order for most of the day – until Nick Heidfeld, on his job audition at Lotus Renault GP, snared the top spot mid-afternoon [see separate story – click here
The Spaniard was wearing a helmet specially-dedicated to his friend Robert Kubica, who is continuing to recover from the injuries he sustained in a rallying crash six days ago, and following 131 laps – taking the F150th Italia's total to more than 1,500km at Jerez alone – he professed himself encouraged by reliability and pleased with his work on tyre-evaluation and long-distance runs.
“It is very important to be able to do so many kilometres one after the other, without experiencing any problems,” the 29-year-old underlined. “It means we can pick up a lot of data, which is useful especially when it comes to understanding the tyre behaviour, which is the biggest unknown at this test. I already said it in Valencia and I repeat it now – we must not think about what the others are doing, in terms of times. It is better to focus on our own efforts, and then we can see where we are in Bahrain in a month's time.
“I am delighted that Robert's condition is evolving in a positive way, with every passing day. Now he will need a lot of patience, but the most important thing is he is getting better.”
With Alonso second and Hamilton fourth on the timesheets, defending F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel concluded proceedings sixth for Red Bull, 1.2 seconds shy of Heidfeld's benchmark. The young German completed 99 laps and looked at analysing some of the different Pirelli compounds over longer runs, and he will remain in the RB7 on Sunday.
“Testing has gone well today,” he acknowledged. “It's quite tricky with the rear wing; it acts in a similar manner to the F-duct last year, so naturally, as a driver, you want to use it as much as you can. When the tyres go off, it's not as easy to use as when the tyres are fresh, but you get used to it. KERS is not so easy to use, but again it's a case of getting used to it – it's practice, in the end.”
“It was another good day today and we managed to get through our full programme, despite a number of red flags towards the end of the session,” added RBR head of race engineering, Ian Morgan. “Fortunately, we were up on our schedule at that point, so we didn't lose too much time. The car ran reliably all day.”
To see the testing times in full, click here