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Barcelona F1 test: Alonso sets early day-three pace

Fernando Alonso led the way on Thursday morning in Barcelona Formula 1 winter testing.

The Ferrari was quickest for the majority of the four-hour session.

Alonso and Williams's Pastor Maldonado swapped the top spot for a spell as both did short runs on soft tyres, but Alonso then started edging clear with repeated small improvements.

Nico Hulkenberg ultimately got closest for Sauber, lapping 0.286s adrift of Alonso on a quick soft-tyre run of his own.

Romain Grosjean took the Lotus over from Kimi Raikkonen and completed the top three.

Mercedes made a slow start to the morning, focusing on data-gathering. That meant a long garage sojourn while the various measuring appendages were removed, after which Nico Rosberg got up to fourth.

Following his early dice with Alonso, Maldonado concentrated on much longer runs, completing an ample 79 laps before lunch.

He will hand over to team-mate Valtteri Bottas for the remainder of the day.

Jenson Button completed the top six for McLaren.

Adrian Sutil's return with Force India gathered plenty of interest. The German was fully engaged with the team's development programme, starting off with aerodynamic tests before lapping a second off the pace in seventh.

Mark Webber was back in eighth at the end of a low-key morning for Red Bull.

The session ran smoothly, with no red flag interruptions.

Morning times

Pos  Driver                Team            Time       Gap     Laps   
 1.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari         1m21.875s           51
2. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m22.160s +0.285 43
3. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m22.188s +0.313 47
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m22.627s +0.752 29
5. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m22.675s +0.800 79
6. Jenson Button McLaren 1m22.840s +0.965 29
7. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m22.877s +1.002 39
8. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m23.024s +1.149 46
9. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m23.366s +1.491 66
10. Max Chilton Marussia 1m26.416s +4.541 33
11. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m27.344s +5.469 50

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