Nelson Piquet Jr overcame a slow opening day to top the final session times in the GP2 Series' first test of the pre-season, good enough to come out ahead of the pack on the day, if not topple rookie Lewis Hamilton's first day effort.

Hamilton's time of 1min 12.838secs, set late on Wednesday afternoon, was the overall fastest time of the two-day session, eclipsing the previous best lap set in a 2005-spec group test on the 3D track layout, but the Briton was a tenth slower than Piquet, after running the Brazilian closest in the Thursday afternoon session.

Piquet's best lap was clocked at 1min 13.068secs, good enough to finish the test third overall, behind Super Nova recruit Jose Maria Lopez, who chased Hamilton all the way on day one, and featured in the top four throughout both days.

The surprise of the afternoon - and the day - came in the form of Andreas Zuber, the Austrian rookie helping Trident Racing make an impressive debut in GP2. After a strong morning, in which both he and team-mate Gianmaria Bruni finished in the top eight, it was Zuber who finished the test in fourth place. Bruni's notorious luck deserted him once again, however, the Italian not getting his wish for a trouble-free day as finished slowest of all on the final afternoon.

Lopez continued to show his title intent with the fourth quickest time of the afternoon for Super Nova, while the man whose seat he now fills, Adam Carroll, gave his new Racing Engineering team - and newest signing Gary Anderson - something to smile about with fifth place.

The morning session has witnessed a continuation of ART Grand Prix's early dominance, with 'veteran' Alex Premat coming out on top after rookie team-mate Hamilton had led throughout Wednesday. The Frenchman pipped fellow second-year driver Piquet Jr by 0.08secs to take top spot, with the Piquet Sports driver finishing 0.2secs ahead of Lopez.

Ernesto Viso was fourth fastest in his best session to date for iSport International, with rookie Lucas di Grassi continuing his fine early-season form as quickest newcomer in fifth spot.

The two-day session saw the official debut of a dozen drivers new to the series, and the speed with which they got up to speed can have left no-one in any doubt as to the
level of competition expected this year. However, the morning session, in particular, was punctuated by a number of red flags, as drivers pushed their cars to the edge to test out the new set-up possibilities created by the move onto slick tyres and the reduction of rear downforce.

Leading performances (23 February) - Paul Ricard:

Nelson Piquet Jr Piquet 1m 13.186s 1m 13.068 31/31Alex Premat ART 1m 13.105s 1m 13.607s 22/33Lewis Hamilton ART 1m 13.802s 1m 13.179s 39/37Andreas Zuber Trident 1m 13.738s 1m 13.276s 28/32Jose Maria Lopez Super Nova 1m 13.356s 1m 13.355s 46/34Adam Carroll Racing Engineering 1m 13.754s 1m 13.426s 30/37Lucas di Grassi Durango 1m 13.492s 1m 13.685s 36/39Ernesto Viso iSport 1m 13.402s 1m 13.537s 37/36Alexandre Negrao Piquet 1m 13.817s 1m 13.568s 36/44Gianmaria Bruni Trident 1m 13.574s 1m 16.695s 35/13Timo Glock BCN 1m 14.638s 1m 13.680s 29/45Nicolas Lapierre Arden 1m 13.783s 1m 13.704s 41/38Hiroki Yoshimoto BCN 1m 14.070s 1m 13.717s 21/41Michael Ammermuller Arden 1m 13.720s 1m 13.823s 38/35Ferdinando Monfardini DAMS 1m 14.114s 1m 13.726s 39/37Felix Porteiro Campos 1m 14.000s 1m 13.741s 31/36Franck Perera DAMS 1m 14.155s 1m 13.757s 41/30Luca Filippi FMS 1m 14.797s 1m 13.794s 31/40Tristan Gommendy iSport 1m 14.261s 1m 13.872s 26/33Adrian Valles Campos 1m 14.110s 1m 13.968s 20/38Olivier Pla DPR Direxiv 1m 14.057s 1m 15.295s 29/20Fauzy Fairuz Super Nova 1m 14.373s 1m 14.321s 25/22Clivio Piccione DPR Direxiv 1m 14.573s 1m 14.785s 22/6Sergio Hernandez Durango 1m 31.620s 1m 14.719s 6/51Jason Tahinci FMS 1m 15.024s 1m 15.552s 24/25Javier Villa Racing Engineering 1m 15.235s 1m 15.046s 39/33

[Times displayed AM/PM, with fastest in bold; lap counts also shown AM/PM]


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