Red Bull on top againposted in F108 | 03 | 2011

    RED BULL continued to show it will again be the car, and team, to beat when it finished the opening day of the final pre-season F1 test in Barcelona on top of the timesheets.

    But while Mark Webber's best of 1min 22.544secs finished the day grabbing the headlines, it only followed a 10-minute spell of head-scratching and eye-rubbing after the Sauber of Sergio Perez appeared at the top of the timing screens.

    With only seconds of the day's running remaining, Perez — who had been lying a highly creditable fourth — catapulted himself to the top of the timesheets with an astonishing 1:21.176. Was Sauber suddenly the team to beat this year?

    After a few minutes investigation it was confirmed the Sauber hadn't suddenly found an extra two-seconds in pace; instead Perez had jumped the chicane on his final run and his superfast time was deleted.

    While Perez remained in fourth, Webber was 0.366s faster than the McLaren of second-placed Jenson Button, with Vitaly Petrov's Renault third. Behind Perez, Nick Heidfeld was fifth, despite struggling with illness in his Renault, followed by Scot Paul di Resta's Force India (pictured today under a very threatening Barcelona sky).

    The 24-year-old from Bathgate watched from the pitwall in the morning as the team's reserve and test driver Nico Hulkenberg clocked up the laps. Di Resta only climbed into the car with less than two hours of the session remaining.

    "That was always the plan for today," Di Resta, whose best time of 1:25.039s was 0.991s faster than Hulkenberg, explained afterwards. "Nico did a good job this morning, then I jumped in the car and we concentrated on a number of specific aspects relating to the tyres and aerodynamics.

    "It was a good day for the team because we worked through all the programmes we'd set ourselves and I established another good baseline for tomorrow. we missed a bit of running after lunch simply because the guys were fixing a problem from earlier in the day.

    "Today was also the first time I've run with the KERS system, and everything went smoothly with that. Using the DRS (drag redusction system) and deploying KERS together takes some time to get used to, but with time it will definitely become a lot more natural.

    "We also used the hard and soft tyre compounds fom Pirelli, and we're understanding their behavious a lot more. I'm in the car all day tomorrow, so we'll take another step forward."

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    Jim McGill

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