Romain Grosjean emerged with the quickest time as the Lotus driver concluded his pre-season testing programme on the second day of running at Catalunya.
Conditions on track were better than on Thursday's opening day of action, with teams able to complete more meaningful running when the circuit dried out after heavy overnight rain.
Having been able to switch onto slick tyres before the morning was out, Jenson Button had been the pacesetter for McLaren before Grosjean made his move – going half a second quicker than the McLaren man with a run on the soft compound tyre.
It capped a more solid day for the Frenchman, who had been left to rue the lack of dry running at the wheel of the E21 on Thursday.
“Even though the weather was far from ideal it was a pretty good day for us and it's certainly a better feeling to end the session with the fastest time on the board rather than the slowest!” he reflected. “We had strong reliability again today and the E21 feels good in all conditions, which is very promising for the season ahead. Of course, I wish I could have more time in the car before the season starts, but if we're in the same position on the monitors when we get to Australia I'll be very happy indeed.”
Behind Button, who was the quickest driver on the medium tyre, Pastor Maldonado was third fastest for Williams despite causing the session to be halted slightly early when his car stopped at the end of the main straight.
Defending champion Sebastian Vettel was fourth for Red Bull, his best time coming in the afternoon after the team had spent the morning session trialling a version of a passive DRS system. The German was limited to 65 laps and admitted that conditions had been far from ideal, with wind affecting the drivers on track throughout the day.
“I didn't do that many laps today, but to be honest the weather wasn't great and it was a pretty rough day in terms of the wind,” he said. “It's very cold as well. The tyres aren't really working properly and I think everybody is suffering the same problem, struggling to make the tyres last for more than a lap. It's difficult to compare things you are testing and also to compare yourself to others.”
Behind Vettel, the top six was completed by the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg and Adrian Sutil's Force India; the latter having his first run on track since being confirmed in a race seat for the 2013 campaign and getting the chance to sample a wider range of Pirelli tyres on the drying circuit.
“It was a very interesting day with such a variation in track conditions, but it was ideal for me to practice in the sort of conditions we might experience in Australia or Malaysia,” he said. “I ran the full wets, the intermediates and it was good to discover the crossover point with the slick tyres. I only ran the medium compound dry tyres today, but it was difficult to do too much set-up work because the wind was affecting the aero balance quite a lot. Overall I felt positive today and whenever I went out on track the lap times were competitive.”
Max Chllton and Giedo van der Garde followed behind, while the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso's Ferari ended up bottom of the times after the pair focused on longer runs rather than chasing quick times.
“It was great to run in the wet today which I have not done so far during our pre-season testing programme,” Rosberg admitted. “The car felt good in those conditions and it's important to have had this experience as there is always the chance of rain in Melbourne.
"This afternoon, we did some race simulation work which was very productive. I am happy with my mileage today as every single lap is important for the learning process, and so overall it was a positive day for me here in Montmelo.”
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