Day one of pre-season testing in Barcelona as it happened

McLaren’s Jenson Button is pipped to the fastest time on the first day of third test by Lotus driver Romain Grosjean.

2 March 2012 Last updated at 16:43

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As it happened

  1. 1610: 

    Fernando Alonso will take over the Ferrari from Felipe Massa tomorrow with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes' Michael Schumacher, Lotus' Romain Grosjean, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, Williams' Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna and Caterham's Heikki Kovalainenalso in action.

  2. 1605: 

    So this is how they finished:

    Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:23.252 73 laps

    Jenson Button McLaren 1:23.510 64

    Sergio Perez Sauber 1:23.820 118

    Mark Webber Red Bull 1:23.830 102

    Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.992 128

    Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:24.216 113

    Paul di Resta Force India 1:24.305 98

    Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.318 105

    Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:24.876 123

    Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:25.587 58

  3. 1625: 

    All that's left for me to do is thank each and every one of you for your contributions. It's fair to say a large chunk of you want Melbourne to stay on the calendar but you'd be quite happy to see Valencia axed. Sorry for the technical problems we've encountered today and here's hoping for a smoother day tomorrow. For now, here's Andrew Benson's developing report. I'll be back at 0745 GMT to bring you live coverage of day of the final pre-season test. I do hope you'll join me. Buenos tardes.

  4. 1615: 

    So that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. McLaren's Jenson Button is pipped at the death by Romain Grosjean with six out of the 10 drivers completing 100 laps of more. Plenty of data, then, for the engineers to wade through this evening before we all get ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

  5. 1550: 

    We have our second red flag of the day...

  6. 1554: 

    The green flags are out and the track is open for business - for at least six minutes anyway...


    Carl Heath on Twitter: "Re 1255. I would go for Estoril if they could get it up to spec."

    Jon Hill on Twitter: "Ditch Valencia, it's dull. bahrain is dull and has too many problems. Bring back A1 Ring (in Austria) or introduce another South American one."

  8. 1600: 


  9. 1552: 

    This time, Vitaly Petrov is to blame. The Caterham driver has stopped at Turn 6 to bring the action to the halt. The marshals waste no time covering the car up and removing it from the track but there won't be much time for any more meaningful lap times when, and if, the action gets back under way.

  10. 1538: 

    While Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean continue to pound around the Circuit de Catalunya, trying desperately to extract the maximum out of their cars to generate some useful data, Jean-Eric Vergne is simply driving in and out of the pit lane doing practice pit stops.

  11. 1530: 

    Just when I was starting to think Jenson Button would end the day as fastest of all, Romain Grosjean bolts on a set of soft tyres on his Lotus and pops in a 1:23.252 to usurp the McLaren driver.


    Peter Birch on Twitter: "Re 1255. Keep Oz. Bin: China, Bahrain, Valencia, Korea, Abu Dhabi and India. Bring back the French GP and look forward to Russia and USA."

    James Bunyan on Twitter: "Drop Valencia. How France does not have a race is awful. Korea and Bahrain might as well be dropped. Would like a South Africa race."

    Zak Forster on Twitter: "I wish San Marino could undergo a Silverstone-style upgrade. Melbourne must stay. French GP back. Drop Valencia."

  13. 1520: 

    With 40 minutes remaining, here's how things stand. Only Mark Webber has improved this afternoon, moving from fifth to third:

    Jenson Button McLaren 1:23.510 50 laps

    Sergio Perez Sauber 1:23.820 103

    Mark Webber Red Bull 1:23.830 93

    Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:23.959 58

    Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.992 113

    Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:24.216 98

    Paul di Resta Force India 1:24.305 83

    Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.318 81

    Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:24.876 116

    Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:25.587 52

  14. 1504: 

    Nico Rosberg joins Vitaly Petrov in the 100-club while Jean-Eric Vergne complete a 13-lap run on the hard tyre. The Toro Rosso driver's lap times are nearly two seconds a lap slower by the end of the stint.

  15. 1510: 

    KV Racing have announced that veteran racer Rubens Barrichello, who was dropped in favour of Bruno Senna at Williams, will join the team alongside Tony Kanaan for the upcoming IndyCar season.

  16. 1443: 

    And the first man to reach 100 laps is....Vitaly Petrov. The Caterham driver is still getting used to his new surroundings since replacing Jarno Trulli last month so to get a good amount of running under his belt will do wonders for his confidence.


    Bob Smith on Twitter: "Re 1255. Drop Valencia, Korea, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. Bring back Paul Ricard, Brands and old Osterreichring."

    William Goodyear on Twitter: "It would be unfair for Spain to have two GPs but for Aus to have have none. I think the EUGP should circulate Europe more."


    David Fuller on Twitter: "Would love to see Kyalami back on the calendar and Valencia dumped."

    Kevin Hatch on Twitter: "Get Paul Ricard back & ditch Valencia."

    John Toman on Twitter: "Drop Valencia/Bahrain both painfully dull. Bring back Turkey and would love to see Adelaide again."

  19. 1408: 

    As there's unlikely to be an overtaking in Barcelona today - and if there is, we're not going to get to see it - our multimedia team have kindly crafted a sensational video which features the best overtakes of 2011. If all is well, the video should appear at the top of your page shortly...

  20. 1400: 

    Here's how things stand with two hours of the session to go. As the teams have focused on long runs this afternoon, only the number of laps has changed since the lunch break. The times and running order remain the same.

    Jenson Button McLaren 1:23.510 42 laps

    Sergio Perez Sauber 1:23.820 78

    Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:23.959 42

    Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.992 85

    Mark Webber Red Bull 1:23.993 70

    Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:24.216 75

    Paul di Resta Force India 1:24.305 66

    Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.318 50

    Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:24.876 86

    Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:25.587 52

  21. 1350: 

    Nico Rosberg and Vitaly Petrov are closely matched in terms of most laps completed. The German is on 80, one ahead of the Russian. Rosberg is out on the soft tyres and has seen his times steadily rise from 1m28s to high 1m29s and early 1m30s as the tyres gradually degrade.


    Sauber on Twitter: "Sergio on lap 70 at the moment. All running well. The programme for the afternoon: runs between 8 to 10 laps. Tyre and set-up work."


    From Jon: "Re 1255: I would drop Valencia as it doesn't really produce much excitement and even Monaco because it's always a procession."

    From D Warner in London: "Not sure if it's a nostalgic thing but I'd like to see the OZ GP stay and a reintroduction of more European venues."

    From Alex in Swansea: "Ditch Valencia. It's a boring train of cars and Spain already has Barcelona!"

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "While McLaren - and, we believe, Red Bull and Ferrari - have significant upgrades to put on their cars at this final test, that seems not to be the case for Mercedes. 'No big upgrades, just general development,' a Mercedes spokesman said when he was asked what the the team's programme was. That tallies with what the team always said was their plan for this pre-season - bring the new car out at the second test, one test later than everyone else, but have it in a state which is much closer to what will race in Australia."

  25. 1330: 

    Sergio Perez is out on track on the super-soft tyres and is lapping in the 1m28s. The Mexican is joined by Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso who looks to have bolted on the hard tyres.

  26. 1318: 

    Nico Rosberg posts a 1:28.323 - his first time of the afternoon - but it's four-and-a-half seconds slower than he went this morning.


    Tom Quinn on Twitter: "Re 1255. Australia needs to say. They should get rid of a racr that is officially the least exciting statistically."

    Whoelse on Twitter: "Ditch the EU GP in Valencia - the most boring race of the year. Bahrain not far behind. Love Australia and Canada."

    Liam Mountain on Twitter: "Ditch the Valencia track. I'd love to see Adelaide again and if only San Marino could sort out it's safety issues as well."

  28. 1313: 

    After a few tweaks in the garage, Jenson Button is back out again and this time, he's joined by Vitaly Petrov, Nico Rosberg and Paul di Resta.

  29. 1310: 

    Phew, the siesta is over at the Circuit de Catalunya as Jenson Button fires up his McLaren and roars out onto the track. He doesn't stay out long, though, and is back in at the end of the lap.


    Caterham on Twitter: "Lunch is done & it's straight back to work for VP. We've made changes to the front & rear ride height & the front anti-roll bar for run 12."


    Force India on Twitter: "It was a good morning for @pauldirestaf1 with 48 laps completed. This afternoon we will focus more on long runs."


    Mercedes on Twitter: "A good morning for Nico working on set-up evaluations with 56 laps completed. He's just about to head out again after the lunch break."

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "An update on lowly HRT, who are one of two teams not to have run their new car so far - and it's touch and go as to whether it will even make it to this final test. A spokeswoman told BBC Sport: 'The plan is to get the new car here (to Barcelona) on Saturday and to test it on Sunday. But if there are any delays we won't make it. We will know more on Friday.' Apparently, crews are working in shifts around the clock to build the car in Munich. As soon as it is finished, it will need to be trucked from Germany to Barcelona, a long trek. Meanwhile, Marussia - the other team whose 2012 car has not yet hit the track - face an anxious wait to find out whether it will pass the one crash test it failed last week. If it does, I'm told they may try to do a 'filming day', when a small amount of running is allowed on demo tyres, early next week."


    From Glynis Mcdonnell in Arundel: "Where's my man Alonso? Hope the Ferrari gets more oomph than last year."

    Alonso will be in action tomorrow along with Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Kamui Kobayashi, Jean-Eric Vergne, Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna who will share duties, and Heikki Kovalainen.

  35. 1305: 

    Looks like the teams are enjoying their afternoon siesta a little too much as there's absolutely no action out on track.

  36. 1300: 

    The green flags are out and the track is open for business.

  37. 1255: 

    While we wait for the teams to gobble up the rest of their paella before prepping the cars to go out again, let me draw your attention to Bernie Ecclestone's recent comments that the Australian Grand Prix is "probably" the least viable on the F1 calendar? How would you feel if Ecclestone got rid of the race which most of the drivers rave about? What do you think about the make up of the current calendar? Which races would you ditch and which would you bring back? Tweet me @lawrobarretto using the hashtag #bbcf1 or fire over a text on 81111 (UK). Don't be shy now.

  38. 1245: 

    Welcome back. I hope you've refuelled sufficiently for the afternoon ahead. If you've just joined us, where have you been all morning? But to bring you back up to speed, McLaren's Jenson Button was fastest of all, 0.310 seconds quicker than Sergio Perez. This afternoon, the focus will switch to race simulation long-runs, so we should have plenty of data to crunch come the end of the day.

  39. 1215: 

    On that note, I'm going to dash off and refuel with a quick sandwich and a fresh brew. I'll be back in 30 minutes with the cars roaring back into life at 1300 GMT. Don't go too far, will you?

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "The teams have to stop running for an hour for lunch at the Circuit de Catalunya, but the break is not always welcome. Jenson Button says: 'You have a window from 1130 to 1530 where the car is working well because the tyres are in their working range. An hour of that we are having lunch, so it is a little bit frustrating that we can't chose our lunch time.' The weather is slightly warmer this week than it was at the second test last week, so the 'window' will be slightly longer, but Button will still be eager to get back out again at 1pm UK time."

  41. 1204: 

    While the trackside marshals gets to work recovering the Sauber - and the rest of the teams break for lunch - here's a rundown of the runners after the morning session:

    Jenson Button McLaren 1:23.510 27 laps

    Sergio Perez Sauber 1:23.820 57

    Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:23.959 36

    Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.992 57

    Mark Webber Red Bull 1:23.993 53

    Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:24.216 61

    Paul di Resta Force India 1:24.305 48

    Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.318 45

    Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:24.876 67

    Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:25.587 37


    And Sauber waste no time giving us a reason for the stoppage: "#Sergio stopped in turn seven. No surprise as the #C31 doesn't run with no fuel... 56 laps completed, time for lunch now."

  43. 1159: 

    Just when I was beginning to think this morning was running a little too smoothly, Sergio Perez steps up to the plate and brings out the red flag by stopping his Sauber out on track.


    From Christian in Cheltenham: "Hope Felipe Massa proves his critics wrong this year, and shows signs of 2008. Forza Massa."

  45. 1152: 

    Nico Rosberg takes the fourth fastest time from Mark Webber by a mere 0.001 seconds with a lap of 1:23.992 before heading straight back to the pits.

  46. 1145: 

    Lots of different tyre programmes going on right now. Vitaly Petrov has the super-softs bolted on to his Caterham while Paul di Resta is evaluating the hard compound on his Force India. Elsewhere, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg are trying out the softs for size. With such variation, relative lap times between the quartet will be difficult to compare.

  47. 1137: 

    Romain Grosjean is starting to find his groove, too in the Lotus. The Swiss driver breaks into the 1m23s with a 1:23.959 to go third fastest. He stays out with only Pastor Maldonado for company.

  48. 1130: 

    Long runs are the order of the day at the moment with Felipe Massa, Vitaly Petrov and Mark Webber all out on track clocking up the miles. For Nico Rosberg, it's a flying lap on the soft tyres, yielding a time of 1:24.057 to catapult him up to fourth overall.


    Michael Tanousis on Twitter: "I'm really excited by the prospect of Nico Hulkenberg this year. I think he has the same sprinkling of stardust as Ham & Co."

  50. 1120: 

    We have a new leader in terms of laps completed as Jean-Eric Vergne clocks up his 55th lap of the day. That boy is certainly earning his crust today.


    From Tim: "McLaren look like they're bringing the fight to Red Bull again this year and with Mercedes being another race winning team its looking to be an exciting season!"


    From Calum in Stornoway: "Hope Jenson wins the title this year. The wins he got last year were superb and showed he deserves to be McLaren number one."

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "There was a degree of nervousness at Lotus this morning as the new car returned to the track for the first time since they had to abandon the second test as a result of problems with the front suspension mounting points on the chassis. The team say things are going "OK so far" after the first three hours. 'We have a lot to do,' a spokesman said, 'because we are combining the work of two tests into one. Romain Grosjean did aerodynamic tests on Thursday morning, after which it took the team about an hour to remove all the sensors. That's why he did less than 10 laps in the first two hours. Now he has been out lapping consistently, and he did another 16 laps in the third hour."

  54. 1110: 

    Well Chazz, here's what our man Andrew Benson has to say about the situation at Lotus...


    From Chazz in London: "What's the early analysis on the changes Lotus have had to make to their car? They looked really quick in the first test. Has this error blown their chances or is Kimi still the dark horse?"

  56. 1105: 

    With just under an hour to go until the teams break for lunch, here's how they stand:

    Jenson Button McLaren 1:23.510 27 laps

    Sergio Perez Sauber 1:23.820 43

    Mark Webber Red Bull 1:23.993 43

    Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:24.216 49

    Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:24.232 29

    Paul di Resta Force India 1:24.305 34

    Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.318 28

    Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.643 49

    Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:25.389 52

    Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:25.587 28

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "Jenson Button mentioned at the last test that McLaren would have a major upgrade prior to the first race, and they will be adding new parts to the car throughout this test. McLaren tell us the focus for the first two days is race simulation work, while the final two days 'will be more exclusively devoted to learning about the new upgrades'."

  58. 1050: 

    Pastor Maldonado gets a little more pace out of his Williams as he improves to a 1:25.587 to leap back ahead Vitaly Petrov for ninth. Looking at the lap counters, despite propping up the timesheets, Petrov has been the busiest so far today with 45 laps closely followed by Jean-Eric Vergne (44), Sergio Perez (43) and Mark Webber (42). Romain Grosjean has completed the fewest (22) as his Lotus team battle to make up the time lost from missing three days of the last test with a chassis issue.

  59. 1040: 

    Lots of personal bests out there but nothing that troubles Jenson Button's quickest lap. Sergio Perez improves to 1:23.820, 0.3 seconds off Button's pace while Vitaly Petrov does a 1:25.622 which keeps him ninth after an impressive 41 laps.


    George Hirons on Twitter: "McLaren have done a really good job so far, but I still think Red Bull are on top in terms of grip. Let's wait and see. A surprise maybe?"


    From Dave: "I would love to see the Silver Arrows step it up this year and give Schuey a real chance to stand on top of the podium one more time. Come on Ross!"

  62. 1030: 

    How things stand after two hours and 30 minutes

    Jenson Button McLaren 1:23.510 20 laps

    Sergio Perez Sauber 1:23.820 34

    Mark Webber Red Bull 1:23.993 37

    Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:24.216 36

    Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.318 26

    Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.643 34

    Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:24.838 13

    Paul di Resta Force India 1:25.292 21

    Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:25.829 19

    Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:26.926 38

  63. 1020: 

    Sergio Perez's reign at the top doesn't last long as Jenson Button usurps him with a 1:23.510 - and that was on the hard tyre, too. The Briton had the track to himself for that lap, but he's now been joined by Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg.

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "There's some fascinating insight from Williams driver coach - and former F1 driver - Alex Wurz into the new cars in this week's Autosport magazine. The Austrian rates Red Bull as 'definitely the quickest car'. McLaren are next and 'with development, it can challenge Red Bull'. He praises Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg's driving and says the car is 'a step forward from last year'. Ferrari's pace 'isn't too bad - it appears to be at a similar level to Mercedes\u2026but the car looks edgy to drive'. He rates Force India as the best of the midfield runners, and thinks Williams have leapfrogged Toro Rosso and Sauber."

  65. 1012: 

    We have a new face at the top in the form of Sergio Perez. The Mexican has bolted on a set of medium tyres and clocked a 1:23.865, 0.128 seconds quicker than Mark Webber who set his tyre on the softs.

  66. 1005: 

    Back to the track and Romain Grosjean has improved on his previous best with a 1:24.996 to go seventh quickest while Pastor Maldonado does the same with a 1:25.829, 1.964 seconds off the pace.


    Marussia driver Timo Glock, who won't get the chance to test his 2012 car this week in Barcelona, on Twitter: "Ready to jump on the bike again! Unfortunately it's not as warm as it was in Spain. Bit cloudy and fresh @home."

  68. 1000: 

    While the track is relatively quiet, let me point you in the direction of Thursday's F1 gossip column which includes a story about how the team bosses think the 2012 season will be significantly closer than the one just gone. Let's hope they're right, eh?


    Richard Cooke on Twitter: "Remember the final test 3 years ago where Brawn stunned the paddock with their pace? Excited to see what happens today."

  70. 0954: 

    Mark Webber is the new fastest man of the day as he breaks into the 1m23s. The Australian laps the Circuit de Catalunya in 1:23.993 to eclipse Jenson Button's time by 0.139 seconds. Felipe Massa, meanwhile, is focusing on longer runs. The Brazilian completes a nine-lap run hovering between the mid-1m24s and mid-1m25s.

  71. 0947: 

    Talking of tyres, Pirelli have brought 114 sets of the medium tyre to Barcelona, along with 94 sets of the soft , 69 sets of the hard and 38 sets of the supersoft. In case of the heavens suddenly open, there will be 31 sets of the intermediate and 14 of the full wet. The medium tyre has been nominated for the first three races together with the soft in Australia and China, and the hard in Malaysia. With that in mind, teams are likely to use this test to focus on preparations for the first three races.

  72. 0939: 

    Jenson Button is getting down to business in terms of lap times. The McLaren driver clocks a 1:29.642 on the soft tyres, before improving to 1:24.132 - the fastest time of the day. That's 0.084 seconds quicker than Jean-Eric Vergne who was running the hard compound tyre when he set his quickest time. Felipe Massa is demoted to third, ahead of Sergio Perez and Nico Rosberg.

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "There has been no rain in Montmelo, where the track is situated, since the last test, so most of the rubber laid down is still there. And now four more days of rubber will be laid down - unless it rains during the test and washes it away. So indeed it will be a very different and much more grippy track than Melbourne, Malaysia, China and Bahrain, which will be dusty and unused."

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn has pointed out on the last day of the second pre-season test, there has now been so much running at Barcelona that the track surface is nothing like what the teams will encounter at the first races of the season. 'The track now is becoming unrepresentative," Brawn said, "because there is a lot of (tyre) rubber going down. The track we have now is not what we will be facing in Melbourne or Malaysia.'

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "Teams, drivers and media will be poring over the times from this final pre-season test to try to divine form ahead of the first race in Melbourne on 18 March. But it will fiendishly difficult to do so accurately - and not just because of the usual vagaries of different tyres and fuel loads."

  76. 0923: 

    Marussia and HRT are the only two teams not in action today. Marussia will miss the entire test after their new car failed the last of 18 mandatory crash tests. As a result, the team formerly known as Virgin Racing, will arrive in Melbourne for the first test with no mileage under their belt. HRT, meanwhile, are also facing a race against time to get their car ready for the start of the season. However, the Spanish squad are still aiming to run their 2012 car on the final day in Barcelona.


    Andy Ratcliffe on Twitter: "I don't know about the fastest car this year, but if championships were won by the best looking car, McLaren would win hands down."


    From Adriano: "I'm hoping that this final testing session is when Ferrari will start to flex their muscles. Don't want them starting on the back foot, come on Scuderia!"

  79. 0915: 

    How things stand after one hour and 15 minutes:

    Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:24.379 17 laps

    Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.828 14

    Sergio Perez Sauber 1:24.906 15

    Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.951 19

    Mark Webber Red Bull 1:25.081 19

    Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:29.548 7

    Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:29.613 19

    Paul di Resta Force India 1:36.076 7

    Jenson Button McLaren 1:42.617 8

  80. 0909: 

    We have a lap time from Jenson Button, but it's nothing to write home about. The McLaren driver has clocked a 1:42.617, 17.789 seconds off the pace set by Felipe Massa. Paul di Resta has completed a similarly unspectacular run with a best time of 1:36.076 in his Force India.


    From Matt: "McLaren look like they have got down to the business of understanding their new car early on, and haven't had the same winter troubles of last year. Red Bull look quick, but what about Ferrari? I think it could be a tough year for them."

  82. 0902: 

    That's more detail than we really needed Heikki...


    Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen on Twitter: "Wow what a night not been sick like this for a long time. Both ends like no tomorrow! Not sure what I picked up and where but not nice."

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "There is massive anticipation about this test and what it might reveal - and not just from fans. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton says: 'I love the last test. We always do it staggered, me and Jenson, and that is usually when the car is at its best. That is where you get a real good feel where the car will be when you get to the first race, depending whether you bring the upgrade to the first race or the test. I do one day and he does the next. The last one is always exciting because you know that the next time you get in the car it will be the first race in Australia, and it is a fantastic feeling. I can't believe we are already so close. I was just thinking about the end of 2006 (before his debut in 2007). I did all the test days, I think I did 22 before the first race. Now we only have six days in the car, it is a huge difference.'"

  85. 0857: 

    While Ferrari and Mercedes are busy clocking up the lap times, McLaren are focusing on pit stop practice. Jenson Button has made three stops with the team scurrying around the car changing the tyres before sending him on his way again. I'll let you know when he actually sets a lap time...

  86. 0850: 

    Felipe Massa now goes even quicker with a 1:24.828, 0.7 seconds clear of Jean-Eric Vergne. Nico Rosberg is getting up to speed too and pops into second, 0.123 seconds behind the Massa.

  87. 0844: 

    And talking of Ferrari, Felipe Massa has only just gone and stuck his red machine on top of the timesheets with a tasty 1:25.413 ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez.


    Nicolas Randall on Twitter: "I think Williams will be this year's dark horse. And boy do they need it."


    Aaron Pickett on Twitter: "Good to see Lotus back on the testing track.. Can't wait to see the true potential of Grosjean's racing!"

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "Perhaps for no team is this final pre-season test more important than for Ferrari. In an attempt to catch Red Bull, they decided to make their new car a complete departure in terms of design, and so far they have been struggling to understand it. And its form has been impossible to judge as the team have done no long runs. It has to be said, though, that it does not look as bad as many are saying, and Fernando Alonso has said he is still confident they can be competitive in Melbourne in two weeks' time. 'There is still a lot of work to do,' the Spaniard said, 'but as of today, there is no reason why we should not be ready for the first race. It's true there are only four more days of testing and we will have to also make use of the first Friday at a race weekend to continue with development, but the car is reasonably complex and needs time.'"

  91. 0837: 

    So Jean-Eric Vergne currently tops the times ahead of Sergio Perez, Mark Webber, Romain Grosjean, Vitaly Petrov and Nico Rosberg. No timed lap from Pastor Maldonado, Paul di Resta, Jenson Button or Felipe Massa yet. Talking of Massa and Ferrari, our man Andrew Benson has more on the Italian team's situation...

  92. 0830: 

    Clearly not impressed by getting bumped off top spot, Jean-Eric Vergne reclaims top spot with a big improvement as he laps the track in 1:25.959 on the hard tyre. Romain Grosjean completes his first lap for Lotus with a 1:34.347 while Nico Rosberg clocks an unspectacular 1:39.371.

  93. 0825: 

    Hurrah, we have a lap time on the board. Vitaly Petrov crosses the line in one minute 33.600 seconds. That doesn't last long, though, as Jean-Eric Vergne flies round in 1:27.256 before Sergio Perez eclipses him with a 1:27.140.

  94. 0820: 

    The last thing you want is me wittering on all day long so do us all a favour and get involved. I want to hear your thoughts on all things F1. Who has impressed you in pre-season testing? Have you spotted a dark horse? Has any team disappointed you? Who do you think will be top dog in Albert Park in 16 days, 22 hours and 40 minutes time? Tweet me via the hashtag #bbcf1 or direct on @lawrobarretto. There's also the option of texting in via 81111 (UK) but make sure you put your name on it, eh?


    Sauber "Today's test programme foresees short runs in the morning and some longer ones in the afternoon. No soft tyres planned to be used today."


    Caterham "Quick Heikki update: He's down with a bit of food poisoning which he picked up overnight. Nothing too serious but a day in an F1 car is out!"

    BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

    "A lot hangs on this final pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya over the next four days. Although testing is notoriously difficult to read - and has been especially so this year - it is generally agreed Red Bull have looked the strongest team so far, with McLaren close behind. Both are expected to run their cars in close to Melbourne specification this week, so people will be doing their best to work out where they stand. Ferrari are a big mystery, having done no long runs - can they sort out their new car? Will Mercedes continue the impression they have closed on the 'big three'? How will Lotus recover from having to miss the second test with a chassis problem. Will Force India continue to look like the best midfield team? The next four days may provide more answers."

  98. 0811: 

    There are clear and sunny conditions at the Circuit de Catalunya. It's pretty cool for now but warmer than last week's test. All 10 cars in action today have completed their installation laps and headed back to the pits to make sure the cars are in tip top shape for a busy day of testing.

  99. 0806: 

    Red Bull and Ferrari are only in Barcelona begrudgingly after the two teams had their request to move their testing dates rejected. Both wanted to run from Friday to Monday, rather than Thursday to Sunday, but the sport's governing body, the FIA, put a stop to that as it broke article 22.4 of the sporting regulations.

  100. 0800: 

    In the word's of Murray Walker, it's go, go, go at the Circuit de Catalunya. The Red Bull roars into life as Mark Webber blasts out of the pit lane, closely followed by Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez in his Sauber.


    Caterham: "Hola from day 1 of the final pre-season Barcelona test. We've had to change the driver line-up as Heikki's unwell so Vitaly's in today."

  102. 0755: 

    Mark Webber will be the man behind the Red Bull today when testing gets under way at 0800 GMT with Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean, Paul di Resta, Sergio Perez, Jean-Eric Vergne and Pastor Maldonado also in action. Heikki Kovalainen is feeling poorly, so Caterham have given him the day off and drafted in his team-mate Vitaly Petrov instead.

  103. 0750: 

    After the opening two tests, Red Bull have looked strong both in terms of one-lap raw speed and long-run race pace but the team have been far from bulletproof with Sebastian Vettel missing an entire morning in the first test in Jerez. McLaren look to be their closest rivals with Mercedes not too far behind. Throw in the unknown quantity of Ferrari, who have struggled to unlock the potential of their new aggressively-designed car, and we've got a tasty four-way battle for the championship on our hands...

  104. 0745: 

    Two down, one to go. Welcome to the third and final four-day pre-season test at the Circuit de Catalunya. This is the last chance for the teams and their drivers to get vital on-track preparation before the cars hit the track for Friday practice in Melbourne on 16 March. You ready? Good. Let's go testing...

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