Felipe Massa cemented his place at the top of the timesheets on the third day of action at the Jerez group test by blitzing the previous best times set by Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean.
While times set in testing are all relative, and mean very little in the bigger scheme of things, sitting in P1 at the end of the day still provides a degree of satisfaction, and Massa will reflect on a job well done after posting a 1min 17.879secs best to take four-tenths of Grosjean's Wednesday benchmark, and a full second of Button's mark, which the Brazilian had described as 'incredible' at the time.
Massa, who was the only driver in action to have driven on all three days until Paul di Resta made a cameo late in the afternoon, was a fixture at the top of the times, setting the early pace in the 1min 19s before banging in his improvement to tie down top spot for the rest of the session. He eventually wound up nine-tenths clear of Nico Rosberg and 1.2secs ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who completed the top three.
In the first part of the day, Massa completed the work he had begun yesterday and, from mid-morning onwards, moved on to a comparison of the various compounds supplied by Pirelli. Despite a harmless spin soon after lunch, he made it through to the end the day, concentrating on long run tests.
“These were three very important days,” Massa claimed, “They were especially useful in the sense of finding the right direction for the team to focus on when it come to the development work between now and the opening round in Australia. We had a lot of items to test and the car went well, it was not difficult to drive and it seemed to me to be quite stable and balanced.
“Today, we fitted the soft compound tyres for the first time and I went faster than I had expected. The quick lap, however, means nothing and while I'm pleased to have done a good time, that was not the priority: we must still concentrate on the car set-up and we will definitely be doing this during the next test in Barcelona. Several teams have very quick and well balanced cars and so I am one hundred percent keeping my feet on the ground.”
Massa's pace, and the number of new faces, aside, the real story of the day was Mercedes found reliability at the third time of asking. After a combined total of 26 laps across the first two sessions, the German returned to the cockpit and racked up the highest tally of the week so far, reaching 148 tours by the time a late red flag curtailed track action for the day.
The German's workload saw him cover the equivalent of more than two race distances as he made up for lost time. The focus was, naturally, focused on reliability running, but he also evaluated a new front wing design this morning and ran with the new parts throughout the afternoon.
“I'm very happy with today and I think it was probably a personal record for me to do almost 150 laps,” he reflected, “I've never been so well prepared physically as I am this season; I feel on top form and it was no problem to complete the programme. To drive the distance from Silverstone to Spa in one day with no problems whatsoever is also a fantastic achievement from the team. It really made up for the last two days and put a smile on everybody's face.”