Barcelona Thursday – six seconds of separation

Mark Webber set the pace in Barcelona on the first day of testing, topping the time-sheets by over a second. Red Bull’s Australian driver was apparently running Qualifying simulations in the morning, and set a slower pace later in the day.

His 1:21.487 was almost a full second quicker than the next best contender, Nico Hulkenberg, who went out and set some fast laps near the end of the session.

However, the more shocking number was the six-and-a-half second advantage that Webber had over the slowest driver of the day, Lotus test driver Fairuz Fauzy. Webbo was also five-and-a-half seconds quicker than Virgin’s Lucas di Grassi, who made friends with the barriers at turn nine shortly after lunch.

Asked – with reference to the Horse Whisperer’s recent diatribe – whether the new teams would improve the competition at their current pace, Webber tempered his disbelief with some solid reasons holding the new boys back.

Competition is about racing people, and it looks that the limited testing as well is being a massive challenge for them. I have always been a massive believer that you need quality, not quantity. None of us would ever agree to have 3 or 4 GP2 cars on the grid with us. That’s something we don’t want.

And I’m totally with the small teams, it’s just so hard for them. How can they be quick straight away? It took Red Bull years and years. It’s not easy for them. The customer cars was the obvious one to make this easier, much easier. A Toyota car, or whatever – the customer car idea was much easier. For the small teams to start from scratch – very, very (OK, I’m editing there) difficult.

Fauzy, however, who is one of the few test drivers to get a serious chance behind the wheel in the pre-season (and we’ll be hearing from some Quick Nick fans soon, if you’re thinking what I was), was quick to point out that Lotus is working on upgrades for the rest of this test, and more again for Bahrain. Downforce, always a must at Barcelona, is currently the order of the day for the team, he says.

We’ll see how it goes, some other teams are still missing, they will be struggling as well. There’s a few parts still on the way for this test, so hopefully if we can finish in the 1:24s for this test, I think that would be a really really good achievement for us. We need to be realistic. Two seconds, three seconds off the fastest – I think that is a good achievement. Of course, it’s not fast, but the aero will help. There will be upgrade kits throughout the season, and I think that will help the team.

And to be fair, it wasn’t just the new teams having troubles. Nico Rosberg, apparently running a full race simulation in the afternoon, pulled to a halt at the side of the road with a mechanical problem. Rosberg had already set a fast lap eventually worth third in the rankings, just a tenth off the Nico (the Hulk, it seems) replacing him at Williams.
Hulkenberg’s single most interesting comment wasn’t very long, but then it probably took him longer to say it than it would take his mechanics to do it.

I think three seconds will be a good pit stop.

Sorry Steve Matchett, your record with Benetton will fall – possibly as early as Bahrain.

Alrighty, if you’ve made it this far, congratulations! I won’t bore you with too much more, here’s the lap times for the session, followed by a few more photos from the day. See you tomorrow.

1. Webber 1:21.487 (109 laps)
2. Hulkenberg 1:22.407 (81 laps)
3. Rosberg 1:22.514 (107 laps)
4. de la Rosa 1:23.144 (73 laps)
5. Button 1:23.452 (100 laps)
6. Liuzzi 1:24.064 (64 laps)
7. Alonso 1:24.170 (74 laps)
8. Petrov 1:24.173 (73 laps)
9. Alguesuari 1:24.869 (111 laps)
10. di Grassi 1:27.057 (31 laps)
11. Fauzy 1:28.002 (76 laps)

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