Button fires warning shot in Barcelona

button2Jenson Button showed that he has lost none of his drive and determination ahead of the new Formula One season after giving Brawn GP’s much talked about new car an impressive debut run in Barcelona today.

With less than three weeks until the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, the Circuit de Catalunya was a hive of activity as the Formula One teams made use of the final testing opportunity of the year to develop their cars ahead of the new season.

Toro Rosso caught the headlines in the morning as they unveiled their new car, the STR4 [see HERE], but it Jenson Button who stole the limelight after setting a searing pace in Ross Brawn’s new BGP 001 [see HERE].

The Briton, whose career has hung in the balance in the last few months as Honda Racing battled for survival, spent most of the morning at the top of the timesheets before dropping to fourth overall on a 1m 21.140, less than three tenths of a second shy Kimi Raikkonen.

“It has been a good first day in the BGP 001,” said Button. “We have enjoyed a positive opening day of running at our first test and achieved a total of 82 laps, which we are all very pleased with.”

“We did experience a problem with the gearbox late in the day but we knew we might face some reliability issues in view of our lack of testing.

“Fortunately, it’s a minor problem that is easily addressed. It’s early days yet but generally it has been a positive start to our pre-season preparations.”

Nick Heidfeld emerged as quickest overall after posting a 1:20.338 in the afternoon. The BMW Sauber driver was followed by Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari and Toyota’s Jarno Trulli who ended the day six tenths of a second adrift of the German.

This morning started off with drizzly conditions but the rain quickly tailed off, giving us the chance to have a good day’s work,” commented Trulli. “The afternoon was windier but the track surface was fine.

“The car felt well balanced from the start and we worked on several new things on the aero side which gave us positive results. We were competitive throughout the day and we collected a lot of data so this was a useful start to the test.”

Nelson Piquet put in a solid charge for Renault to line up fifth behind Button. The Brazilian was pleased to be making progress in the R29 after struggling with the balance of the car at the opening tests of the year in Spain and Portugal.

“It was a really positive day for me and nice to be able to complete so many laps on a dry track,” said Piquet.

“I feel a lot more comfortable in the car now and, as we didn’t have any issues during the day, I could get on with the set-up programme, which taught us some interesting things about the car.”

Sebastien Bourdais was the first Toro Rosso driver to get his hands on the STR4 and completed 96 laps with the sixth fastest time.

“It s much too early to talk about performance,” said Bourdais at the end of the day. “However, the car seems to work well and we ve already learned a lot today. If we can carry on like this for the next few days, it will be a good starting point for the season.”

Bourdais continues to drive tomorrow, before handing over to Sebastien Buemi for the final two days of the session.

Mark Webber was seventh fastest for Red Bull Racing with Adrian Sutil at the helm for Force India.

“I feel quite confident and pleased with the progress we made today,” said Sutil. “129 laps is a good achievement and we got a lot more data. We simulated a race and qualifying and actually it felt good.

“We did a long run, which was very important to see how the tyres react over this distance. I feel actually much more prepared for Melbourne, but let’s see tomorrow if we can improve our times as the track conditions in the morning were not ideal.”

Heikki Kovalainen had a low key day working on long runs and ended the day last almost three seconds behind Heidfeld.

McLaren said in their testing notes: “The morning session was spent focusing on longer runs using an existing bodywork package in order to establish an accurate baseline ahead of the evaluation of new parts in the afternoon.”

“During the lunchbreak, MP4-24 was fitted with a new front wing, floor and top body and the programme continued – on identical fuel-loads – throughout the afternoon. The team now turns its focus towards tuning the set-up in order to fully exploit the characteristics of the new aero kit.”