The result means that three different teams have set the pace in the first of four rounds of pre-season running before the championship kicks off at Bahrain in mid-March.
For the third day running, the twelve teams were blessed with bright sunshine and warmer temperatures, allowing all the opportunity to run over the allocated eight-hour session.
But proceedings were brought to a halt after just an hour when Felipe Massa suffered a fiery exit, brought about by an oil leak in his Ferrari F150, which had run solidly for the two days previously in the hands of Fernando Alonso. The Brazilian spun backwards into the gravel at Turn 5, while marshals frantically tried to put out the fire.
After a thirty-minute delay while the circuit was cleaned, proceedings could resume, but Massa was sidelined for about five hours before he could rejoin the action, but he still posted 80 laps and the fifth-quickest time overall.
With three hours of running done, Adrian Sutil and Michael Schumacher headed the timesheets, with Mark Webber third-fastest with his pedals in the Red Bull now configured to his liking.
Fourth-fastest at this stage was Jenson Button in his first outing of 2011 and his sole day in the interim McLaren MP4-25 before the team launches its new challenger in Germany. Pastor Maldonado was fifth-fastest in the Williams.
By the afternoon, air temperatures had climbed as high as 17°C (63°F), allowing Button to vault into second place behind Sutil, who was quickest with a best time of 1:13.201.
But it was Kubica who moved to the top of the order over a series of three-lap runs, with the Pole dipping into the 1m13s range three times.
Highlighting Pirelli’s pledge to produce more aggressive, higher-wear tyres for its return to the sport, Kubica’s times fell away dramatically over the long runs he performed later in the afternoon, with his times dropping as low at 1m17s after some 18 laps of running.
Sutil couldn’t improve on his quickest effort in the 2010 Force India, although he covered the most mileage with 117 laps as the team used the time to understand the characteristics of the different Pirelli tyre compounds. His longer runs saw his times some six seconds a lap slower than his low-fuel, shorter-run efforts, however.
|Compare the the two Red Bull stables’ cars: The Red Bull RB7 (left) and the Toro Rosso STR6 (right)|
The driver who seemed to perform best on the long-stint runs was actually Mark Webber, who ran a 20-lap stint where his times remained consistently in the 1m15s to 1m16s range, indicating that the Red Bull RB7 could still be the car to beat based on early form. The Australian finished up fourth-fastest at the end of the day’s running.
With Massa winding up fifth-quickest, Timo Glock took the older-spec Virgin Racing VR-01 sixth-fastest at the end of the day with a low-fuel run to post a time in the 1m14s bracket. The German spent much of the day on longer 12-lap runs where he lapped in the 1m17s range.
Pastor Maldonado was seventh-fastest in his first day with exclusive use of the Williams FW33, which has so far failed to light up the timing boards. Starting the day with longer runs in the 1m16s range, he switched to shorter sprints in the afternoon and gradually improved his times into the 1m14s, although his lap times still varied quite a bit during this time, which may indicate that the team was still trying to chase a proper set-up on the new car.
Mexican rookie Sergio Pérez finished eight-quickest for Sauber, after losing time in the morning when the team had to replace his gearbox. His longer runs saw him lap in the high 1m15s, before a shorter stint later in the day saw him dip into the 1m14s range.
After being at the pointy end of the time sheets early in the day by dint of shorter-stint running, Michael Schumacher spent the afternoon concentrating on longer runs that saw his lap times sitting in the 1m16s, with the occasional drop into the 1m15s range – a pace similar to what Webber was able to manage with similar runs.
Eleventh-fastest was Sébastien Buemi, who spent most of his day on five-lap runs, where his times steadily improved from the 1m17s range and into the 1m15s. His best lap snuck below the 1m15 barrier.
Some 1.7 seconds adrift of Buemi was Narain Karthikeyan, who gained more valuable mileage in the older-spec HRT F110 as he plots his comeback to F1. The team never ran for longer than five laps at a time and he lapped consistently in the 1m17s range, only dipping below this with shorter runs in the afternoon.
At the bottom of the timesheets was Jarno Trulli, who failed to post a time when the team failed to get replacement parts from its UK base to Spain to repair the faults with its power steering system in the Lotus T128. This left the Italian with little more than to post a total of 38 installation laps, aero and system checks.
With the team having exclusive use of the circuit on Friday – by dint of missing the first day at Valencia in favour of swapping a day’s running for a private test session – one might suggest that the team wants to conduct a proper evaluation away from the prying eyes of rival teams, who will pack up and head back to their factories before heading to their next test destination, Jerez.
Valencia Pre-Season Test (Day 3) Lap Times:
|1.||Robert Kubica||Renault R31||1:13.144||95|
|2.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM03*||+ 0.057||117|
|3.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-25*||+ 0.409||105|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 0.792||105|
|5.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F150||+ 0.873||80|
|6.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth VR-01*||+ 1.063||114|
|7.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 1.155||101|
|8.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 1.314||104|
|9.||Vitaly Petrov||Renault R31||+ 1.325||104|
|10.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP W02||+ 1.393||110|
|11.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 1.657||73|
|12.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT Cosworth F110*||+ 3.391||63|
|13.||Jarno Trulli||Lotus Renault T128||no time||38|
* Denotes interim-spec or 2010 model