After Jenson Button had stunned the Formula 1 paddock on Wednesday, it was team-mate Rubens Barrichello's turn to upset the established order on Thursday in Barcelona, as the experienced Brazilian maintained Brawn GP's extraordinary dominance of the final fully-attended group test of the winter.

In taking a further two tenths off the British star's effort from the previous day, Barrichello placed himself almost a full second clear of any of his rivals on day four, as he brought the ex-Honda outfit's week at the Circuit de Catalunya to a more-than-satisfactory conclusion.

Though delayed by initial heavy fog causing poor visibility in the morning, the S?o Paulista was soon able to get down to completing a full 66-lap race distance with pit-stops and using both compounds of the Bridgestone Potenza slick tyres available, encountering no reliability woes along the way.

Once again the new, Mercedes-powered BGP001 proved capable of setting consistently competitive lap times both over a longer run and in 'qualifying simulation' format in the afternoon - leaving the team to head into its last three days of pre-Australian Grand Prix testing at Jerez next week with its tail well-and-truly up.

"I'm very pleased with the mileage that we have achieved today," commented Barrichello, "and the completion of another full race distance. The qualifying exercises were also very useful in enabling the team and I to get fully up-to-speed and ready for Melbourne. The car has proved fast and reliable throughout the week, so we go to Jerez feeling positive and pleased with the results of our first test outing."

"We are extremely pleased with the inaugural test of the BGP 001 car in Barcelona this week," agreed new team owner Ross Brawn. "The team made a very late start to our pre-season testing programme, with only seven days in which to run the car before the first race in Melbourne; therefore our focus has been on reliability and achieving as much mileage as possible. Both of these aims have been successfully achieved this week.

"That the car has run so reliably 'out-of-the-box' is a tribute to the strong team that we have at our factory in Brackley, and they have done a great job during a very difficult period. The car is performing to our expectations and the feedback from Jenson and Rubens has been positive, with both drivers completing full race distances. We have three further days of testing in Jerez next week to complete our preparations for the first race, and I look forward to seeing how the car progresses from here."

Second-fastest at the close of the day was the Williams-Toyota of Nico Rosberg, who conducted set-up work and aerodynamic and reliability checks aboard the FW31, taking his personal testing total to 972 kilometres for the week and the team's to just shy of 1,800 kilometres.

"We've put in a lot of laps this week and have definitely made good progress," affirmed the young German. "Our schedule has mainly focussed on mechanical and aero testing, of which there was lots to learn because there are so many new concepts and designs this year. It's difficult to judge where everyone is because the times are quite close, but we have one more test next week which will be an advantage."

"It was another good test for the team," concurred team-mate Kazuki Nakajima. "No major issues came up and the car was really consistent all week. We also completed a race simulation and did qualifying runs as well, which was good. We'll cover any outstanding work we need to do during the one remaining pre-season test next week in Jerez, and then look forward to the season actually starting!"

"After an initial delay due to fog this morning, we spent our last day in Barcelona completing another useful session working mainly on the optimisation of set-up around the slick tyres, something that will be key to this year's championship," concluded the multiple world championship-winning Grove-based concern's technical director Sam Michael.

"We have made progress over the four days and now look forward to our final test in Jerez next week, where we will sign off some more parts for Melbourne. The lap times are close at the moment, making it difficult to predict the order - great for the sport!"

Just over three tenths behind Rosberg in third place was countryman Timo Glock for Toyota, with the 26-year-old wrapping up the big-budget Japanese manufacturer's pre-season preparations by dint of covering 128 laps of the Catalan circuit - to take the team's overall total for the week past the 500-lap mark - in yet another full session of set-up work before he was forced to stop out on-track on his final lap with an as-yet undiagnosed mechanical issue, which is being investigated.

"This was another useful day to round off our good winter of testing," underlined the former GP2 Series Champion. "We did more work on set-up and long runs, and everything went well until the very last lap! Still, overall the car feels strong and we seem to have good pace so we can look forward to Australia.

"Of course we'll only see the real results on Saturday in Melbourne, but everyone at Toyota can be happy with our work so far. We've made fine progress - so roll on the first race!"

"After the fog cleared this morning, we had another good day's work to finish our winter programme," added the Cologne-based squad's test team manager Gerd Pfeiffer. "Timo made the most of the conditions, putting in a lot more laps of set-up on the TF109. He stopped on his last lap, so we will now have to investigate the cause.

"Overall, given this year's in-season testing ban it was important that we had a positive winter - and that's exactly what has happened. We have made the most of the limited time and the TF109 has been quick and consistent, so we can head to Melbourne with confidence."

Next up on the timing screens was Sebastian Vettel in Red Bull Racing's RB5, the young German concluding the energy drinks-backed outfit's final test of the winter by trying out a number of development parts on the Adrian Newey-designed machine and focussing his efforts on set-up work in anticipation of Melbourne.

"Overall this week's test has gone pretty well," stated the Milton Keynes-based concern's head of race engineering, Ian Morgan. "We've been pleased with our reliability throughout the winter, but looking to performance it's hard to know where we stand until we get out on the track in Melbourne. We're looking forward to it and can't wait to start racing again."

Less than a tenth shy of Vettel at the end of the day was former double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso in Renault's R29, the Spaniard rounding off the test with his third day of the week behind the wheel of the R?gie's new challenger as he concentrated on evaluating technical components to improve the mechanical balance of the car - albeit losing some time later on that limited him to just 64 laps in the final reckoning.

"We had a problem at the beginning of the afternoon and so we lost some track time," admitted the man from Oviedo, "but overall I think it was an interesting day and we improved our understanding of the car.

"We tried some new development solutions, so today was not about outright performance but simply exploring new ideas for developing the car into the season. We have one more test to go in Jerez, but overall I think we are ready for the first race in Melbourne."

"We had quite a lot to get done this week," explained Renault chief test engineer Christian Silk, "and the programme evolved as we went along, just as it always does. As we continue to get to know the car, it becomes apparent what areas we need to look at and what areas we can find performance in.

"The car ran very well all week, and the team is working well together as we had the entire race team here preparing for the first race. We've got one more test to go, when we will introduce some final developments prior to Melbourne."

Felipe Massa placed sixth-quickest for Ferrari, bringing the Scuderia's pre-season testing to a close as he performed set-up adjustment checks on the F60, getting through a total of 92 laps in the process.

"I think we've done some pretty good work in this [test] session," the Brazilian contended. "Obviously there were some minor problems on the second and third days, but yesterday I drove the distance of one-and-a-half races all in one go without getting out of the car and also today I drove many miles.

"Over these 20 days of tests we have been able to improve our car a lot in every respect. Today we're where we thought we would be before the start in Melbourne."

Robert Kubica lapped less than a tenth of a second slower in seventh for BMW-Sauber, the Pole completing a race simulation that included start procedures and pit-stops. After the lunch break the 24-year-old continued to evaluate different solutions for the F1.09's set-up in advance of the Australian Grand Prix, covering 134 laps in all to bring the car's total mileage for the four Barcelona test days to 2,162 kilometres.

"Our final pre-season test was very productive," confirmed the Munich and Hinwil-based operation's technical co-ordinator Willy Rampf. "We worked on the mechanical set-up of the car as well as the aero configuration. In addition, we also improved our KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems).

"Our second goal was to prepare for the season's first grand prix in two weeks in Melbourne. We simulated a proper race day on Tuesday with Nick Heidfeld and today with Robert Kubica, each covering a complete race distance without any technical problems. That tells us a lot about the reliability of the BMW-Sauber F1.09."

A low-key eighth-quickest - again considerably further down the order than either he or the team would like to be - was McLaren-Mercedes star and defending world champion Lewis Hamilton, almost two full seconds away from the leading pace as the 24-year-old focussed upon mechanical set-up, successfully developing the MP4-24 and learning positive directions for improvement ahead of the Woking-based outfit's final chance to make progress at Jerez next week.

Ninth-fastest was S?bastien Buemi, who led Scuderia Toro Rosso team-mate S?bastien Bourdais by six tenths of a second, with the young Swiss rookie building upon the two race distances he had completed the previous day with development work on the STR5 in what is both the Red Bull 'junior' squad's first and last pre-season test with its new car. Bourdais, for his part, was able to play catch-up to some extent after badly missing out on track time due to persistent teething troubles on the first two days.

The two Toro Rossos sandwiched the Force India VJM02 of Giancarlo Fisichella in the final order, with the veteran Italian concluding the Silverstone-based concern's pre-season testing by way of a race weekend simulation, conducting initial set-up checks ahead of launching into qualifying runs before the lunchtime pause. In the afternoon the Roman moved onto longer runs and put in a full race distance, getting through 141 laps in the process - the most of any driver present.

The team will now move back to its Northants base to consolidate the data gained over the two tests and begin final preparations for the Australian Grand Prix in just over a fortnight's time. Test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi will carry out a shakedown of the second chassis at Silverstone on Tuesday.

"It's been a good day with 141 laps," enthused Fisichella. "We went in the right direction with some set-up work, and the car was very reliable so we could really start to work on the balance. It's not so bad; we just could do with some more aero grip.

"We didn't do the best lap time when the circuit was at its peak in the morning - otherwise we could have improved the time, perhaps a 1:20.5s - but overall I feel comfortable. It's quite encouraging; we now know where we need to improve."

"It was a very good conclusion to the eight days of testing," agreed FIF1 technical director James Key. "Over the week we have completed more than 2,000 kilometres and have a very strong basis to start the season from. We don't have any major concerns and the car is now very reliable, so we can really start to look at areas that will improve performance.

"Giancarlo ran a second race distance without any issues and tried both tyre compounds. In more representative temperatures today they behaved very well and seemed to be good over longer runs. The drivers seem to be happy and, with this in mind, we can concentrate on seeking out the improvements that will move us forward."

To see the testing times in full, click here



Loading Comments...