Felipe Massa has taken Ferrari to the top of the timesheets as the third pre-season Catch me if you can - Felipe Massa went fastest by a considerable margin test session wrapped up at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.

The Brazilian set a fastest time of 1:22.625 to finish up some 0.8 seconds quicker than second-fastest man Mark Webber, while Toro Rosso continued to show decent testing pace with Sébastien Buemi going third-fastest.

Massa and Webber’s quickest times came on a two-lap qualifying-style sprint run, while Buemi’s was posted over a three-lap stint.

But the day was largely dominated by the looming announcement as to whether the Bahrain pre-season test session and the Grand Prix itself would go ahead, with the political conflict on the island kingdom very much dominating everyone’s thoughts. An announcement made an hour before testing concluded confirmed that the race would indeed be withdrawn from its slot in the calendar.

It was a chilly start to the morning, with ambient temperatures of just 4°C (39°F) greeting the drivers and teams when the track opened for business at 9am local time, although temperatures were to climb to 16°C (61°F) as the day progressed. Conditions were dry and generally overcast, becoming cloudier into the afternoon.

One surprise for the day was the absence of Hispania Racing, which had packed up overnight and headed back to its team headquarters, seemingly declaring this particular pre-season test session over. The Murcia-based squad had run three drivers – the recently-signed Narain Karthikeyan doing most of the mileage alongside Vitantonio Liuzzi and Giorgio Mondini – and will now be gearing up to run its new F111 for the first time at the final pre-season test before the Australian Grand Prix, which now reassumes its season-opening billing following Bahrain’s cancellation.

Jerome D'Ambrosio
D’Ambrosio lost crucial mileage with a mechanical problem bring his Virgin Racing car to a halt in the morning 

Perhaps Team Lotus was bothered by the vacant garages next to it due to HRT’s absence, for Jarno Trulli suffered a heavy accident in the morning with only a handful of laps in the bank when he crashed into the tyres at the high-speed Campsa right-hander. The crash – which the team blamed on a mechanical failure rather than driver error – curtailed the team’s running due to an absence of spare parts, and fortunately there was no injury to the Italian driver.

Belgian rookie Jérôme d’Ambrosio caused the day’s second stoppage when his Virgin Racing car stopped on the circuit at 11am, with an issue that lost him valuable track time while it was being resolved. He was eventually able to rejoin with 90 minutes to go, and finished ninth-fastest.

At around lunchtime, Buemi headed the timesheets ahead of Adrian Sutil and Massa, and after lunch the teams got down to the serious business of completing some race simulations.

Sebastien Buemi Lewis Hamilton Michael Schumacher
Contrasting fortunes for three drivers: Sébastien Buemi continued Toro Rosso’s promising form by going third-fastest in the STR6; Lewis Hamilton finally clocked up some decent mileage; Michael Schumacher enjoyed more miles, only for a late mechanical stoppage halting his bid to move further up the timesheets.

With an hour to go, Webber headed the timesheets from Buemi and Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, although the Venezuelan rookie would cause the day’s third red flag when he ground to a halt at the exit of pit lane, and he was shortly followed by Michael Schumacher stopping his Mercedes GP on the back half of the circuit.

This left the drivers with just twelve minutes of running, and by that point Massa had vaulted to the top of the timesheets with his fastest lap ahead of Webber and Buemi, with Nick Heidfeld (who was hampered by a KERS issue) fourth-fastest and Lewis Hamilton fifth-quickest.

The 2008 World Champion finally enjoyed some decent mileage in his McLaren MP4-26, while a pleased Maldonado finished sixth-fastest, matching Massa’s tally of 121 laps of the circuit on the day.


Barcelona Pre-Season Test (Day 4) Lap Times:

  Driver   Team Time Laps
1. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150th Italia 1:22.625 121
2. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 + 0.817 69
3. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 0.925 90
4. Nick Heidfeld DEU Renault R31 + 1.032 95
5. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 1.378 107
6. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 1.432 121
7. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 1.552 64
8. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 1.890 74
9. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 3.876 50
10. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 4.454 114
11. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Renault T128 + 7.367 18

[Images via GP Update, LAT and Sutton Images]

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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.