Hulkenberg took Williams to the top of the timesheets

Nico Hülkenberg topped the pre-season test timesheets for the first time when he took his Williams Cosworth around the Circuit de Catalunya just 0.023s quicker than Fernando Alonso managed in his Ferrari.

While the comparative fuel loads being run by the other teams is always the unknown factor during test sessions – thus making any true form analysis near impossible – this result will provide both team and driver with a great confidence boost, with Bahrain just two weeks’ away.

Those of you may recall that Williams frequently topped the free practice timesheets on many Grand Prix weekends in the 2009 season, but that rarely translated to front-running pace during qualifying or the race proper.

Having lost two hours’ running yesterday with an electrical problem, Alonso wasted little time on his final test outing for the team by posting a series of blistering laps in the morning session. His Ferrari F10 sported a range of new aerodynamic components that the team looked to analyse, most evident being the ‘shark fin’ engine cover.

The double world champion switched from qualifying simulations to a full race simulation in the afternoon’s running, and compiled the highest lap total of any runner (133 in total). He caused a red flag in the dying minutes of the day when his Ferrari stopped on circuit, although one would suspect that this was a deliberate attempt to run out of fuel.

Pedro de la Rosa and the Sauber team continues its solid pre-season form, with the Spaniard setting a quickest time just 0.3s slower than his compatriot to end up third-quickest overall.

Vitantonio Liuzzi took the Force India team to fourth-quickest on the timesheets, with the Italian’s workload mirroring that of Alonso’s – a series of qualifying-style runs in the morning, followed by lengthier runs in the afternoon.

Next up on the timesheets were the two Red Bull backed teams: Sebastian Vettel and Jaime Alguersuari ranking fifth and sixth respectively.

Michael Schumacher ran heavy-fuel loads almost exclusively as his team sought to develop a race-spec set-up best designed to the capabilities of the W01 challenger. Lewis Hamilton and McLaren adopted a similar approach, and it was not surprising to find the duo’s times were comparatively slower than those who chose to run some qualifying-style bursts.

Renault’s Robert Kubica only managed 53 laps and was ninth-quickest overall; his day’s running was severely interrupted with a suspension problem rearing its head in the afternoon session.

Lotus will be pleased that it managed to get the better of Virgin for the wooden spoon honours on today’s testing timesheet, but the gap of nearly 5 seconds to Hülkenberg’s Williams may cause some concern.

Jarno Trulli racked up a decent amount of laps for the Malaysian team, but twice ground to a halt with technical issues – one being a power steering failure.

Virgin would no doubt be relieved to have managed some more laps under the belt, with Timo Glock compiling 52 laps of the Spanish track after the team had to complete extensive repairs to the VR-01 following Lucas di Grassi’s accident yesterday.

[Image via ITV-F1]

1. Nico Hülkenberg Williams Cosworth 1:20.614 (99 laps)
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:20.637 (133)
3. Pedro de la Rosa Sauber Ferrari 1:20.973 (114)
4. Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India Mercedes 1:21.056 (90)
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 1:21.258 (125)
6. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso Ferrari 1:21.571 (104)
7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:21.689 (85)
8. Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 1:22.152 (93)
9. Robert Kubica Renault 1:24.912 (53)
10. Jarno Trulli Lotus Cosworth 1:25.524 (70)
11. Timo Glock Virgin Racing Cosworth 1:25.942 (52)
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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.