Vettel stays top on day 3 at Barcelona

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing continued to gel in Barcelona with the German star topping the time sheets on the third and final day of testing at the Spanish track, continuing his strong form.

Vettel lapped quickest with a 1:19.295 around the Circuit de Catalunya which put him over half a second clear of his former Toro Rosso team mate Sebastien Bourdais.

“It was good to be back in a race car again, for the first time since Brazil,” said Vettel. “Running the 2009 slick tyres was very interesting and very different to what Formula 1 has been used to for the past few years.”

“It was also a useful couple of days for me from the point of view of getting to know the engineers and the rest of the team. It is important to develop a common understanding between us and winter testing is the ideal opportunity to do just that.”

Red Bull Racing’s chief test engineer Ian Morgan was impressed Vettel settled into his new role as a Red Bull Driver having formerly raced for Toro Rosso, with whom he memorably won the Italian Grand Prix in the wet.

“Sebastian settled in very quickly and it actually felt as though he d been with us for a long time already, which is a good sign! We now have plenty of data, particularly on the tyre front, which we will put to good use at the next test session, at the Jerez track next month.”

Sebastien Bourdais meanwhile is fighting to save his seat at Toro Rosso and has been locked in a fierce battle with Takuma Sato and Sebastien Buemi during the test, both of whom could replace Bourdais should they impress the Faenza-based outfit next year.

“It s been a useful one and a half days, trying various set-up options to find the right direction for next year s car,” commented Bourdais. “Of course, the 2008 car was not designed to run on the 09 slick tyres, which means you don t always have the necessary range of adjustment to exploit them fully, but it was an interesting experience nevertheless.”

The Frenchman will no doubt be satisfied to have finished ahead of Buemi on the final day, albeit by a mere three tenths of a second.

Buemi was similarly upbeat about his day: “Another positive day to round off this test session,” he said. “I m
really happy with how testing went overall, the team did a good job and I think I did too, which could be important for my future!”

McLaren test driver Gary Paffett was fourth quickest again in the KERS-fitted MP4-23, with Honda’s Jenson Button sealing out the top five ahead of BMW Sauber drivers Christian Klien and Nick Heidfeld.

“Definitely the slick tyres provided more grip than the 2008 grooved tyres,” said Heidfeld who spent the day focussing on tyre development. But he added: “We have to start from zero by learning how the slick tyres heat up and for how many laps they deliver optimum performance.”

GP2 championship runner-up Bruno Senna impressed Honda to go eighth quickest, a scant three tenths of a second shy of Jenson Button and over half a second faster than rival Luca di Grassi managed yesterday.

“Today has been a really good day and I’m very pleased. I’ve become a lot more comfortable and confident in the car and I think that showed in the lap time, both in the actual time and also the consistency,” said Senna.

“We found some good set-ups and we were able to make a lot of progress through the day. Whether what I did today is good enough is for the team to decide now and I respect that. But for me personally, for my first time in a Formula One car, I have to be happy with what I achieved today.”

“Driving a Formula One car is a very special feeling and it is very easy to know why it is the pinnacle of motorsport. It’s very different to anything else you can drive and I just wanted to go faster and faster. Aside from the hard work and focus here this week I have really enjoyed myself.”

Nelson Piquet (Renault) and Nico Hulkenberg (Williams) completed the top ten ahead of Ferrar test driver Luca Badoer who spent the majority of the day working on engine reliability.

“We had a busy morning, continuing with the work we began earlier this week by evaluating the tyres and looking at some more development parts in preparation for next year,” commented Piquet.
“The car still feels strange running with settings to simulate 2009, but we now have lot of data to work through and so it has been a valuable few days for the team.”

Today's times:

Pos  Driver      Team                      Time      Laps
 1.  Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     (B)  1:19.295  75
 2.  Bourdais    Toro Rosso-Ferrari   (B)  1:19.839  122
 3.  Buemi       Toro Rosso-Ferrari   (B)  1:20.154  115
 4.  Paffett     McLaren-Mercedes     (B)  1:21.140  81
 5.  Button      Honda                (B)  1:21.387  94
 6.  Klien       BMW Sauber           (B)  1:21.534  88
 7.  Heidfeld    BMW Sauber           (B)  1:21.592  106
 8.  Senna       Honda                (B)  1:21.676  107
 9.  Piquet      Renault              (B)  1:22.148  94
10.  Hulkenberg  Williams-Toyota      (B)  1:22.410  52
11.  Badoer      Ferrari              (B)  1:22.866  120
12.  Fisichella  Force India-Ferrari  (B)  1:23.086  93
13.  de la Rosa  Force India-Ferrari  (B)  1:23.103  88