Webber flies in first Barcelona test

Mark Webber produced the star performance on the opening day of this week's pre-season test at Barcelona on Thursday with the fastest lap overall - and strong long-run times to boot

Webber flies in first Barcelona test

The Red Bull Racing driver set his best lap of 1m21.487s during the morning session, when he focused exclusively on short blasts of a few laps that went some way to showing the potential of his RB6 on low fuel.

His best effort, set shortly before 12.30pm, was not matched by any other driver - and in fact he had a further seven laps that would have been good enough for him to head the timesheets.

In the afternoon, Webber completed a long 26-lap run, which showed encouraging consistent improvement throughout the stint, before his car stopped on track and brought out a red flag.

Despite that hiccup, the fact that Webber ended the day just less than one second faster than his nearest rival - on an aerodynamic track that plays to the strengths of his car - will have been a big boost to the team that has seen early testing with its car disrupted by poor weather.

Webber's nearest challenger was Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg, whose best effort of 1m22.407s came right near the end of the day as he reeled off a sequence of qualifying simulations in the FW32.

That performance edged him ahead of Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes GP W01, who had spent most of his day working through long run simulations - apart from a brief flurry of short stints before the lunch break.

Rosberg appeared to be trying a race simulation in the afternoon, getting through 24 laps before a stop for new tyres. However, shortly after he resumed his car came to a stop at Turn 10 - bringing out one of the day's many red flags.

Pedro de la Rosa continued BMW Sauber's steady progress in testing to set the fourth best time of the day, putting in his best effort of 1m23.144s late on.

Jenson Button was another driver saving his best until the end, with his best lap of one minute 23.452s coming on the 11th lap of a 14 lap run that came to a end when his car stopped just before Turn 10 - to bring out a red flag that resulted in the day's proceedings being brought to a halt a few minutes before its scheduled cut off point.

Vitantonio Liuzzi made steady progress in the Force India, which also included him working on pit-stop scenarios with his team, to set the sixth best time, while Fernando Alonso ended the day seventh overall in the Ferrari.

It was a far from perfect day for Alonso, whose F10 stopped on track shortly before 10.25am with a suspected electronic problem, and he did not re-emerge until just before the lunch break. He was only able to complete 22 laps during the morning session.

In the afternoon, Alonso got his lap tally up to 74 as he focused on long runs - never bothering with the low fuel stints that would have moved him up the timesheets.

Behind Vitaly Petrov and Jaime Alguersuari, there was more frustration for Virgin Racing, which saw Lucas di Grassi hit the barriers at Turn 9 after spinning off the track shortly before the lunch break.

The rear of the VR-01 took the brunt of the impact, and the team was unable to get the damage repaired due to a lack of spare parts. The team hopes to be able to continue testing on Friday when new parts are flown out.

"We are continuing to debug the car hydraulics and making good progress in our understanding of the issue," said technical director Nick Wirth.

"Unfortunately when we were running some experimental control settings on the car, which were adversely affecting its handling, this caught Lucas out on the entry to turn nine resulting in a spin and contact with the barrier.

"We're going to need to spend the time before tomorrow replacing some broken suspension and wings. We should be back on track tomorrow morning when we hope to really start building up our mileage."

Fairuz Fauzy ended his first proper day of testing in the Lotus at the bottom of the timesheets - just less than one second adrift of di Grassi's best time.

Today's times:

Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:21.487 109 2. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:22.407 81 3. Rosberg Mercedes GP (B) 1:22.514 107 4. de la Rosa BMW-Sauber (B) 1:23.144 73 5. Button McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:23.452 100 6. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:24.064 64 7. Alonso Ferrari (B) 1:24.170 74 8. Petrov Renault (B) 1:24.173 73 9. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:24.869 111 10. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth (B) 1:27.057 31 11. Fauzy Lotus-Cosworth (B) 1:28.002 76 All Timing Unofficial 
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