At the conclusion of the third day of testing in Valencia yesterday, Renault’s Robert Kubica took the top spot with a headline grabbing run in the R31, securing a fastest lap of 1:13.144 late in the afternoon.
The Pole was a mere 0.057 of-a-second ahead of Force India pilot, Adrian Sutil, who had the busiest day of all thanks to 117 laps around the Ricardo Tormo circuit. Sutil had a healthy gap back to the next runner, Jenson Button, who turned in the final laps for the MP4-25 with a best of 1:13.553. Next up was Mark Webber in the Red Bull RB7 who was finally getting some running following a stuttered day on Wednesday.
The Australian finished the day just under eight-tenths slower than Kubica, although Webber still had a better time of it than 5th place Felipe Massa – the Brazilian driver suffered an oil failure early in the day causing him to spin his Ferrari, before starting a brief fire at the rear of his F150 machine. Although Massa got back out in the afternoon, it was an unfortunate way for him to start the final running.
Timo Glock (6th, Virgin), Pastor Maldonado (7th, Williams), Sergio Perez (8th, Sauber) and Michael Schumacher (9th, Mercedes) were next up – all managed to break the century lap barrier and while it might be expected for Glock, Maldonado and Perez to be further down the list, it was something of a surprise to see Schumacher 1.4 seconds off the pace. As always though, it is impossible to tell who is doing what at these early sessions; however neither the Mercedes nor Schumacher have shown startling laps as of yet when on short runs.
Sebastien Buemi claimed 10th spot in his Toro Rosso with a best of 1:14.803, while Hispania’s Narain Karthikeyan returned to the rear of the pack – his quickest turn of pace saw the Indian 3.4 seconds slower than Kubica. Jarno Trulli trailed the sheets, but did not set a time – instead the Italian completed installation run after installation run.
Unfortunately, the Lotus T128 suffered a power steering failure yesterday, but with spares not arriving in time for the last day, it left Trulli with little to do beyond the occasional systems check; however because the team did not start testing until Wednesday, the Norfolk based squad are able to avail of a further day’s running today.
Tellingly, when on short runs this week, the drivers have been setting a pace around the 1:13-1:14 mark; however when switching to longer runs, the drop-off in laptime was quite considerable (up to five seconds per tour), followed by an even greater lossage of time once the Pirelli’s faded badly.
Testing continues next week in Jerez.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Robert Kubica Renault 1m13.144s 95 2. Adrian Sutil Force India Mercedes* 1m13.201s +0.057 117 3. Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes* 1m13.553s +0.409 105 4. Mark Webber Red Bull Renault 1m13.936s +0.792 105 5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m14.017s +0.873 80 6. Timo Glock Virgin Cosworth* 1m14.207s +1.063 114 7. Pastor Maldonado Williams Cosworth 1m14.299s +1.155 101 8. Sergio Perez Sauber Ferrari 1m14.469s +1.325 104 9. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m14.537s +1.393 110 10. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso Ferrari 1m14.801s +1.657 73 11. Narain Karthikeyan HRT Cosworth* 1m16.535s +3.391 63 12. Jarno Trulli Lotus Renault no time 38