Michael Schumacher set the pace for Ferrari at the Circuit de Catalunya on Tuesday as all the teams began their on-track preparations for 2008.

Schumacher, who has been drafted in to try the F2007, was the main attraction on day 1 in Spain - especially as championship protagonists Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were all absent for various reasons.

The German notched up 64 laps in total and despite not having driven a F1 car 'proper' for over 12-months, he was two tenths up on Luca Badoer, who was 'best of the rest' in the sister car. Both Ferrari men worked mainly on the electronics of the F2007 and on the development of new components aimed at next season.

Pedro de la Rosa meanwhile was third on a 1m 22.687s, around five tenths slower. The Spaniard was joined on track by McLaren team-mate, Gary Paffett. The Brit was a further four tenths back in his MP4-22 and ended the day sixth on the unofficial timesheets.

The McLaren testers focused on running without driver aids - like virtually everyone else - and while there were a number of red flag stoppages during the day, McLaren 'managed to complete its scheduled running for the session'.

Renault's Heikki Kovalainen and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica were sandwiched between the two MP4-22s, in fourth and fifth respectively, the former managing 81 tours in total.

"I was very happy to back driving today," said Kovalainen. "Since Brazil I haven't been out on the track for several weeks so I was pretty impatient this morning. I have to say that driving without any assistance, as was the case today is really great.

"You have to pay attention to your driving, your reaccelerating, your tyre wear and behind the wheel it's fun. We did a good job on our first day back. The car reacted well to our set-up changes and I think that between now and Thursday we'll make a lot of progress."

"The day went off well," added Renault's chief test engineer, Christian Silk. "We've progressed and I think everybody was happy to back out on the track again.

"We're going to do our utmost to prepare for next year's season in the best possible conditions, and our first day's been very encouraging. We're going to continue along the same lines tomorrow and Thursday and we hope to make further progress."

Kubica, in contrast to Heikki, did just 56 laps for BMW, the Pole though was only fractionally slower - eight hundredths of a second adrift. Heidfeld was also on track for the Swiss-based team, albeit eight tenths back and only just inside the top ten.

"During the three-day Barcelona test the BMW Sauber F1 Team is focusing on testing the new standard ECU which will be mandatory in all F1 cars in 2008," confirmed the team at the end of day 1. "This includes driving without traction control, set-up work and system programming.

"Apart from some teething problems with the new electronics and several red flags, it was a productive day. Robert and Nick will continue to drive on Wednesday and Thursday and work together with the engineers on gaining experience with the standard ECU."

Further down the order, Kazuki Nakajima was seventh for Williams, followed by Red Bull Racing's David Coulthard and Toyota's Jarno Trulli.

Jarno managed just 46 laps after opting to only start running at 11 am due to a fever. He also had to stop earlier than planned due to an engine problem, which left him stranded on the track with around an hour still to go.

"It was nice to be back behind the wheel apart from the fact I was a bit sick today with a fever, so it wasn't the best way to get back in the car," he noted. "But we managed to go through all of my programme and we looked at developments for the 2008 car, working without traction control and looking at other test items.

"In general it was a smooth day apart from my engine problem at the end, which was a shame. We have two more days remaining so we will continue to work hard and try to make as much progress as possible."

Trulli's team-mate, Franck Montagny also had a bit of a disrupted day due to 'teething problems' in the morning. Nevertheless though he did 61 laps and finished the day twelfth overall, two hundredths behind Nico Rosberg in P11.

"Obviously we didn't run as much as we expected this morning but at least in the afternoon we were able to start our programme and learn a few things," noted Montagny.

"It was good to be driving again after quite a long break and I think we made some progress understanding the new ECU. My car has several 2008 items fitted so it was quite different to the 2007 car, but it felt well balanced and I was quite happy with it towards the end of the day. We will run a similar programme tomorrow and try to learn more."

Rosberg managed 58 laps in his interim FW28, eight less than Nakajima, who will drive the #2 Williams car full-time in 2008.

"The AT&T Williams team were back on the race track today for the start of winter testing," stated Williams test team manager, Dickie Stanford. "In preparation for his first full season in F1 having been confirmed as a race driver for 2008, Kazuki Nakajima joined Nico Rosberg in the two-car test.

"The pair, driving interim FW29Bs, opened the winter programme with a constructive first day concentrating on component development. Neither car suffered any major faults. Both drivers will return to the track tomorrow."

Of the rest, Sebastian Vettel was 13th for Toro Rosso followed by Andreas Zuber, who was in action for Honda, and his new team-mate, Sebastien Bourdais. Vettel and Bourdais combined to notch up over 120 laps in total for STR.

Anthony Davidson was next up in 16th having spent the day evaluating the new MES controls system that will become mandatory in 2008 and completing a programme of electronic system check analysis.

James Rossiter was 17th, four tenths off Zuber in the sister Honda car, while Karun Chandhok and Force India duo, Giedo van der Garde and Roldan Rodriguez brought up the rear.

The three-day test now continues on Wednesday.

Testing times (13 November) - Barcelona:

1. Michael Schumacher Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 21.922secs 64 laps
2. Luca Badoer Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 22.129secs 76 laps
3. Pedro de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes 1min 22.687secs 63 laps
4. Heikki Kovalainen Renault-Renault 1min 22.802secs 81 laps
5. Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1min 22.883secs 56 laps
6. Gary Paffett McLaren-Mercedes 1min 23.008secs 46 laps
7. Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1min 23.187secs 66 laps
8. David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1min 23.332secs 55 laps
9. Jarno Trulli Toyota-Toyota 1min 23.624secs 46 laps
10. Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1min 23.671secs 75 laps
11. Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1min 23.847secs 58 laps
12. Franck Montagny Toyota-Toyota 1min 23.861secs 61 laps
13. Sebastian Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1min 24.048secs 77 laps
14. Andreas Zuber Honda-Honda 1min 24.065secs 77 laps
15. Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1min 24.193secs 51 laps
16. Anthony Davidson Super Aguri-Honda 1min 24.246secs 70 laps
17. James Rossiter Honda-Honda 1min 24.480secs 69 laps
18. Karun Chandhok Red Bull-Renault 1min 24.896secs 39 laps
19. Giedo van der Garde Force India-Ferrari 1min 25.317secs 84 laps
20. Roldan Rodriguez Force India-Ferrari 1min 26.973secs 87 laps

All times unofficial - courtesy of McLaren

Track / weather conditions: Overcast during the morning, with sunny spells during the afternoon. Track temperature, 24.4?C / Ambient temperature, 15.7?C.

Comparative lap times:

Spanish GP 2007:

Pole position: Felipe Massa Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 21.421secs [Q3] / 1min 20.597secs [Q2] / 1min 21.375secs [Q1]Fastest lap: Felipe Massa Ferrari-Ferrari 1min 22.680secs

 

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