Jenson Button and the new Brawn GP team stole the thunder once again in Barcelona as the driver-car combination vaulted to the top of the timesheets on the third day of testing at the Spanish track.
Button and the team, now being led by Ross Brawn, have spent the last few months surrounded by uncertainty as Honda Racing struggled to find a buyer for the team. This made the Briton’s lap of 1:19.127, comfortably the fastest time of the week, all the more sweeter for the Brackley based outfit.
Button ended the day a full second clear of his closest rival, Felipe Massa, enough of a cushion to confirm the underlying pace of the new car which was almost certainly being run in qualifying trim.
Tally Button’s performance today with the pace of the BGP001 on Monday and again on Tuesday in the hands of Rubens Barrichello and Brawn GP are quickly emerging as a force to be reckoned with.
It should not be forgotten of course that – the turmoil of Honda’s exit from Formula One aside – the team, like BMW Sauber, threw the bulk of their resources at this year’s very early on in 2008, unlike McLaren and Ferrari who were forced to develop their 2008 challenger right down to the wire.
The BGP001 is also the first car that Ross Brawn has overseen the development of having spent much of his debut year with Honda putting in place the necessary processes and structures – many of which he pioneered and fine tuned at Ferrari – to maximise his impact in developing the 2009 car.
“It’s 15 months of work,” Brawn explained to reporters in Barcelona yesterday. “We said that we were sacrificing last year to concentrate on this car, and what you see is what we said we would do. So it is perfectly rational in my mind.”
Button was delighted with the handling of the new car. “It’s been another great day and a very positive test generally,” he said today after lapping quickest. “After the challenges we have faced, to come here and get off to such an encouraging start is just what we all needed and I can’t thank the team enough. All that effort has really paid off and everyone can feel very proud.”
Felipe Massa was second quickest having spent the day working on long-runs in his Ferrari F60. The Brazilian was hampered by a hydraulic problem in the afternoon but stayed ahead of Robert Kubica’s BMW Sauber and Toyota’s Timo Glock.
“This morning started well and we made it through a lot of set-up and comparisons in the course of the day,” said Glock. “We found some different directions and overall it was a productive session. Late on we had a slightly longer break so we couldn’t quite finish our plan. But we should have enough data to investigate and make some positive steps for tomorrow.”
Fernando Alonso was fifth quickest ahead of Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing. Williams’ Nico Rosberg was seventh ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella and Sebastien Buemi.
“It was another busy day for us, working on the set-up of the car and trying lots of different things so that we are ready for the first race,” said Alonso. “We are trying to find more and more performance from the car and also did some work to prepare for the Spanish Grand Prix which will be at this circuit. We are happy with our performance, but we have to keep working hard because the times between all the teams are very close.”
McLaren endured another low key day as paddock whispers continue to question the Woking squad’s pace ahead of the new season. Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton finished the day last over two second off the pace.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:19.127 124
2. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:20.168 109
3. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 1:20.217 109
4. Glock Toyota TF109 (B) 1:20.410 99
5. Alonso Renault R29 (B) 1:20.863 107
6. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:21.165 102
7. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:21.324 89
8. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:21.545 97
9. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:21.569 140
10. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:21.657 82
All Timing Unofficial