For the third successive day, a different driver emerged on top of the times at Catalunya after Pastor Maldonado set the pace on day three of the second pre-season F1 test.

The Venezuelan, on his first outing of the week at the wheel of Williams' FW33, set the quickest time of the week so far, with a lap of 1min 22.391secs being better than the benchmark times set by Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg on Tuesday and Wednesday.

As has been the norm this week, Maldonado set the quickest time on a run late in the morning before teams elected to switch to longer runs on track during the course of the afternoon.

"It was a good day today, as we completed all of our planned programme with no issues," Maldonado said. "We have put more mileage on the car which is great for everyone here and back at the factory as we now have a lot more data to analyse. The car is progressing well and I feel everything is going in the right direction."

With few improvements being made during the afternoon, Maldonado ended up nearly a second ahead of the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher, with the seven-time champion back at the wheel of the W03 for his second day of testing this week.

The German had briefly led the way prior to Maldonado setting his fastest lap but then spent the afternoon running through a long stint to put more mileage on the new car.

In total, Schumacher managed just under 130 laps - more than any other driver on track.

Kamui Kobayashi was third fastest for Sauber on his first appearance of the week, having taken over the C31 from team-mate Sergio Perez. The Japanese driver caused one of a number of brief red flag periods when he stopped shortly before lunch while on an out-of-fuel run.

Jenson Button was fourth for McLaren and the last driver to get within two seconds of the time set by Maldonado, with Jean-Eric Vergne fifth for Toro Rosso; the young Frenchman another driver having his first outing of the week.

"It's good to be back in the car after Jerez," he said. "We got through a lot of work today, including some aero evaluation and different set-ups. We ran all day long on the Medium tyres, which gives us a good baseline to analyse the data. We are learning more about our new car with every lap and it has performed well on this Barcelona track which is always a true test of how a car is performing.

"Towards the end of the day, I had my first experience of proper Formula 1 pit stops. It was a scary feeling at the beginning, coming in at 100 km/h and seeing so many people. At first, I was worried about hitting someone, but by the end I had got used to it. It's an exciting experience!"

Mark Webber and Felipe Massa was sixth and seventh having posted exactly the same time, with Massa ending the day slightly early when he stopped on the exit of the pitlane in the closing minutes to bring out the final red flag.

Paul di Resta was eighth having lost part of the morning session when he lost part of the engine cover on the Force India while Timo Glock took Marussia off the bottom of the times for the first time this week by posting the ninth best lap, half a second down on di Resta in the only 2011-spec car in action.

That meant Vitaly Petrov's second day of running with Caterham saw him down in tenth place, with the Russian having lost track time in the morning to a suspension issue.

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