Ferrari continued its low-key start to winter testing with Luca Badoer and Marc Gene running a brace of F2008s in the Formula One group test in Barcelona but, for the Spaniard, the session was a welcome chance to get back behind the wheel.

While race regulars Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa take time off at the end of a hectic season, and the Prancing Horse gears up to give MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi another run in one of its cars at Mugello, Badoer and Gene pounded around the Circuit de Catalunya in the company of eight other teams in preparation for 2009.

Both drivers continued the work they had started on Monday, Badoer working on engine and gearbox reliability while Gene dedicated himself to set-up and tyre evaluations. The difference in their programs could be seen in the laps they completed, with Gene only having limited available mileage, and doing just nine laps in the morning while his cohort completed 60 more.

However, after numerous laps on the Scuderia's simulator and on the straight at Vairano - where he worked tirelessly on the F2008's aero package - Gene was simply happy to be back behind the wheel of an F1 car on, as he put it, a real race track.

Although he has been engaged in other racing activities over the year, notably playing a part in Peugeot assault on the Le Mans Series and 24 Hours and commentating on F1 for Sky Italia, climbing back behind the wheel of the scarlet single-seater on Monday provided a major buzz for the Catalan.

"It's great to taste the Ferrari again on this track," he admitted, "I'm working with the car's set-up, trying to understand the handling with the new tyres, while Luca is working on the reliability, especially of the engine, because, next season, it has to live 50 per cent longer.

"I've worked a lot with this car at Vairano, but a test like this is something completely different. I don't have a huge mileage, because we have to keep in mind that we're close to the 30,000km limit we can use in 2008, but it's great to be here."

Of course, The F2008 is not exactly the same as it had been while Gene was carrying out those endless tests of the aero package, as Ferrari joins its rival in paring back the unsightly add-ons that will be banned by the 2009 rulebook.

"True, we got rid of as many things as possible to try to create the downforce we'll have the next season, but the main thing is the slicks," Gene said of the difference, "I couldn't directly compare them, but the first feeling is that the grip delivered by the new tyres compensates the lower downforce."