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F1 NEWS 

Barcelona Formula 1 test one round-up

The 2012 Formula 1 winter testing schedule offered teams an unusual one-week break between the opening sessions at Jerez and action resuming at Barcelona - giving an opportunity for those who had troubled starts to work hard back at base before hitting the track again, but also giving those who shone at Jerez plenty of time to process their data and make further gains.

A chilly week at Barcelona's Catalunya circuit therefore began to give us a clearer picture of where the field stands and how the picture is chagning as the season-opener in Melbourne approaches.

Day one

Sebastian Vettel, Red BullWorld champion Sebastian Vettel commenced the week in ominous form with the fastest time for Red Bull on Tuesday, although it was a relatively close fight at the front of the field, with 0.353 seconds covering the top four cars.

Whereas Jerez had tended to see each day's best time set very early then never beaten, Tuesday's pattern of a morning of close competition and top-spot-swapping followed by a slow afternoon set the tone for the Catalunya week. Vettel jumped to the top with his 1m23.265s shortly before lunch, deposing compatriot Nico Hulkenberg's Force India by 0.175s.

But the biggest news was not who was fastest, but who was already heading home. Romain Grosjean reported "strange" feelings from his Lotus and parked after just seven laps. A major chassis problem - seemingly related to the front suspension - was discovered, and the team packed up not only for the day, but for the rest of the week.

That overshadowed the unveiling of the new Mercedes W03, the last potential 2012 frontrunner to break cover. The new car was sixth on its first public appearance, with Michael Schumacher doing the honours.

Also making a 2012 debut was Marussia, albeit with a 2011 Virgin for rookie Charles Pic to build up mileage and experience in. The GP2 graduate covered a mammoth 121 laps.

Lewis Hamilton was also busy as he completed 114 laps and went third-quickest for McLaren, followed by Daniel Ricciardo's Toro Rosso and Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.

A trackrod problem left Heikki Kovalainen's Caterham parked across the circuit in the morning, but it was resolved in time for him to get a little more running at the end of the day.

Day two

Nico Hulkenberg, Force IndiaAfter narrowly missing out on the Tuesday top spot, Hulkenberg established himself at the head of the order on Wednesday as one of several drivers to try Pirelli's super softs.

Sergio Perez did likewise for Sauber and lapped within 0.040s of Hulkenberg's 1m22.608s.

But Vettel was again at the forefront, setting the soft-tyre pace with a time 0.283s off the Force India.

Ricciardo and Alonso again completed the top five, ahead of Hamilton. The McLaren driver and Vettel carried out intriguing long runs at the same time, giving a hint of their potential race pace, and appearing evenly matched.

Williams gave reserve driver Valtteri Bottas a full day in the car and a chance to simulate his grand prix Friday programmes. The Finn was eighth quickest.

There was also a new face at Caterham, as Vitaly Petrov made his debut for his new employer and settled in with the ninth-quickest time.

Day three

PAstor Maldonado Williams 2012 Barcelona testAnother super soft run grabbed the top spot, this time courtesy of Williams man Pastor Maldonado.

Given that Williams had not looked like a pacesetter so far, this could have been dismissed as low-fuel showboating, but Maldonado was adamant that the FW34 was showing genuinely encouraging signs.

Schumacher took second place for Mercedes, nearly a second off the Williams, having completed an impressive 127 laps - including a 59-lap run punctuated only by tyre changes.

Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, McLaren's Jenson Button and Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne were next up.

Day four

Kamui Kobayashi, SauberThe fastest time of the week came on the final morning - and on softs rather than super softs. Kobayashi lapped in 1m22.312s for Sauber - then got within 0.006s of that mark on super softs too.

Maldonado continued to produce encouraging pace for Williams in a close second place, followed by Force India's Paul di Resta, who caused a morning red flag by slewing into the gravel at Campsa.

As well as going quickest, Kobayashi also had the honour of the greatest lap tally, as he completed 145 circuits of Catalunya.

Only nine cars took part in the final day. With Lotus already long since departed and HRT still not ready, Marussia caused numbers to dwindle further when a suspension issue on Pic's 2011 Virgin meant it could not take part in the Friday running.

COMBINED TIMES

Pos  Driver      Team         Best time            Total laps
 1.  Kobayashi   Sauber       1m22.312s            244
 2.  Maldonado   Williams     1m22.391s  + 0.079s  240
 3.  Hulkenberg  Force India  1m22.608s  + 0.296s  209
 4.  Perez       Sauber       1m22.648s  + 0.336s  151
 5.  Vettel      Red Bull     1m22.891s  + 0.579s  183
 6.  Di Resta    Force India  1m23.119s  + 0.807s  184
 7.  Alonso      Ferrari      1m23.180s  + 0.868s  162
 8.  Button      McLaren      1m23.200s  + 0.888s  229
 9.  Schumacher  Mercedes     1m23.384s  + 1.072s  178
10.  Massa       Ferrari      1m23.563s  + 1.251s  187
11.  Hamilton    McLaren      1m23.590s  + 1.278s  234
12.  Ricciardo   Toro Rosso   1m23.618s  + 1.306s  126
13.  Webber      Red Bull     1m23.774s  + 1.462s  182
14.  Vergne      Toro Rosso   1m23.792s  + 1.480s  170
15.  Rosberg     Mercedes     1m23.843s  + 1.531s  221
16.  Senna       Williams     1m25.711s  + 3.399s  97
17.  Bottas      Williams     1m25.738s  + 3.426s  117
18.  Kovalainen  Caterham     1m26.035s  + 3.723s  101
19.  Glock       Marussia     1m26.173s  + 3.861s  108
20.  Petrov      Caterham     1m26.448s  + 4.136s  139
21.  Grosjean    Lotus        1m26.809s  + 4.497s  7
22.  Pic         Marussia     1m27.343s  + 5.031s  229
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