Perez provisionally quickest in test

By on Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sergio Perez grabbed the top time late on the first day of the final winter test at Barcelona - though there are question marks over whether his time will stand.

The Sauber driver threw in a shock 1m21.176s with seven minutes to go, beating previous pacesetter Mark Webber by a full 1.3 seconds, with Webber's morning lap having already been quicker than anyone went at the previous Barcelona test last month.

However with Perez's final sector time on his best lap quicker than the rest by over two seconds, it appears probable that he cut the chicane to set the time so the lap may yet be cancelled. For now, though, he is credited as the day's fastest man.

Perez had lost a little track time to an oil leak, though even before then he had hovered around the top five on mostly brief stints.

Should Perez's lap be deleted, Webber's 1m22.544s will stand as the day's official best. The time came on a qualifying-style single-lap run this morning, and he followed it up with another lap just one tenth slower shortly afterwards, having previously lapped in 1m23s on a five-lap stint.

For the afternoon, Webber switched to slightly longer runs, doing stints of 10, 13 and 17 laps that tended to start in the 1m27s/1m28s region before getting up to 1m30s to 1m32s as the tyres wore.

Jenson Button gave McLaren a lift with the second-fastest time. In the morning it looked like the team had to abandon a race simulation - with Button pitting shortly after being shown a pitboard that indicated he would be running for a further 50 laps.

But he showed encouraging pace when back on the circuit, doing two 1m22.9s lap on qualifying-style runs to put himself 0.366 seconds behind Webber in the end-of-day times. On subsequent six to seven lap stints the McLaren's pace was generally in the 1m29s, while the start of its race simulation had seen times drifting from 1m30s to 1m34s.

McLaren had earlier prompted plenty of discussion when Button's car ran with a bizarre bulge from its nose section. This was a measuring device being used to assist with future front wing development, rather than an odd technical innovation.

Renault held fourth and fifth positions - Vitaly Petrov having taken over from Nick Heidfeld when the German called a halt to his day due to a cold near the end of the morning. Heidfeld's best morning time still held for third until Perez and Petrov made big improvements in the last 10 minutes of the session.

Force India also split its running between two drivers, though its lunchtime switch was scheduled. Nico Hulkenberg had his first taste of the 2011 car in the morning, his best time leaving him ninth in the end, before handing over to Paul di Resta for the afternoon. The Scot took sixth.

AirAsia GP2 drivers Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia were given a chance to drive for parent team Lotus today. Valsecchi had the morning session and briefly took third place with a late lap, before putting the car in the gravel and causing a red flag. He was pushed down to seventh in the end, with Razia - who also prompted a red flag with just a few seconds of the test remaining when he stopped on track - going 10th-fastest.

The first red flag of the day was down to Sebastien Buemi's Toro Rosso, which missed several hours of running after grinding to a halt on the pits straight. The Swiss driver got up to 48 laps in the end with a busy afternoon, taking eighth.

With Mercedes, Williams, Ferrari and Hispania not out until tomorrow, Virgin's Jerome D'Ambrosio was the only other driver in action. The team seemed to be concentrating on a variety of assessments rather than outright pace, as though its rookie driver covered 57 laps, he did not set a competitive flying lap and was often in and out of the pits repeatedly.

Times to follow

Report By Matt Beer - AUTOSPORT


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