• Valencia Test Report - Day Three

Ferrari dominates in Spain

Dan Knutson at Circuit Ricardo Tormo
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Fernando Alonso dominated the time sheets recording Ferrari's best lap of 1:11.470 © Sutton Images

Fernando Alonso was quickest on the third and final day of testing at Valencia's Circuit Ricardo Tormo. His lap of 1:11.470 was also the fastest by any driver over the three days. His Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa had been quickest overall with a 1:11.722 on Tuesday.

All seven teams have changed their driver line-ups from Tuesday to Wednesday. Four drivers were in their new car for the first time: Alonso in the Ferrari F10; Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-25; Vitaly Petrov in the Renault R30; and Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso STR5. Nico Hulkenberg had a brief run in the Williams FW32 in England, but this was his first proper test of the new car. Pedro de la Rosa was back in the Sauber C29, and Michael Schumacher did almost a full day of running in the Mercedes MGP W01.

De la Rosa brought out the only red flag of the day just 25 minutes into the session. He stopped out on the track after bumping wheels with Hulkenberg. The latter made it back to the pits. De la Rosa ended up second quickest of the day with a 1:12.094.

The Sauber looked impressively quick in Valencia. Technical director Willy Rampf and his design team have created a good car, but observers in the pit lane keeping track of estimated fuel loads believed that the car was running with 20 kilos less fuel than the others. The teams were generally running about 80 kilos of fuel, half a tank, which gave them data of the average set-up needed for the car that will start the race with 160 kilos of fuel and end it with an empty tank.

Sauber, however, was apparently running with 60 kilos, which was the average weight teams tested with last year, so that the engineers could make some direct comparisons between its 2009 and 2010 cars.

Schumacher ended up third with a time of 1:12.438 which beat the best lap of 1:12.899 team-mate Nico Rosberg set Tuesday. "You should be careful not to read too much into the lap times, especially not into those of me and Nico," Schumacher said. "We only have started working with the car, and Nico struggled with his seating position. So from me, a much more sound comparison is not between Nico and myself, but between Ferrari and Mercedes. Ferrari was showing constant and quick laps. We managed to have a certain consistency as well, we are within our plan. It is no secret that Ferrari is one of the teams you have to beat if you want to win grand prix this year."

Although a hydraulic leak on the car ended Schumacher's test early, he was pleased with his performance after three years out of the cockpit. "I feel fine and I think the lap times reflected that," he said. "Yes, it could have been possible that I got a feeling of self doubt, but the good feeling with the car and my pace never let that happen."

This was the first ever F1 test for Alguersuari, who ended up fourth quickest with a lap of 1:12.576. He made his debut in last year's Hungarian Grand Prix, but with the various testing restrictions he never got a chance to drive the car outside of a race weekend. "It should be good for everyone to have more testing," he said. "Not just young drivers, but to improve the teams and to improve the cars. Maybe there is an economic limitation, but I guess if we could deal with it, it would be good for everyone."

Vitaly Petrov enjoyed his first active day as a Renault driver but could only record the sixth best time © Sutton Images

Button was fifth with a time of 1:12.951. He spent a long time in the garage after doing three installation laps in the morning. There was nothing wrong with the car, a team spokesperson told ESPNF1. The crew was merely changing his seating position and ticking off a long check-list after Jenson's first laps ever in a McLaren.

McLaren did an aeropaint test on Lewis Hamilton's car on Tuesday. The procedure, which the team has used previously, involves heavily spraying a specially formulated green paint on a particular part of the car (in this case the left front wing) and then immediately sending the driver out for one quick lap. The paint is spread backwards over the car by the rush of air, and thus the engineers can see exactly what influence certain parts have on the air flow, and exactly where that air then streams over the rest of the car.

Petrov was sixth after turning a 1:13.097 in the Renault, but the car will be considerably updated for the next test.

"We will furiously add new bits to it as the season approaches because our team like every other team in the pit lane is going to be developing at a very fast rate," said Renault's technical director James Allison. "These rules, while this is the second season with them, everybody I am certain is still finding improvement at a rate that far outstrips the historical average that we have been used to over the last five or six years. The job list is very daunting to be ready for the first race. We have to build a lot of pieces and we have to get through a lot of work on the car just to make sure that it will get to the end of the race."

Hulkenberg was seventh with a time of 1:13.669. The team concentrated on half race runs, and he did 126 laps. Williams' technical director Sam Michael is relieved that none of the other teams have come out with anything radically new on their cars so far. "There are little bits and pieces and differences on the cars," he said, "but there is nothing that I look at think 'Oh God, we didn't think of that.'"

For the third consecutive day the teams enjoyed a sunny day and a dry track. Testing resumes at Spain's Jerez circuit on February 10.

Times at close of testing at 5pm CET

Pos. Driver Car Best Time Laps
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari F10 1:11.470 127
2 Pedro de la Rosa Sauber C29 1:12.094 80
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes MGP W01 1:12.438 82
4 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso STR5 1:12.576 97
5 Jenson Button Mclaren MP4-25 1:12.951 82
6 Vitaly Petrov Renault R30 1:13.097 75
7 Nico Hulkenberg  Williams FW32 1:13.669 126