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Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Friday, 11 March 2011

Formula 1 testing in Barcelona day four as it happened


F1 season preview - New for 2011


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By Sam Lyon

1620: So that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. Just five teams running tomorrow - Hispania, Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari and Williams - with rain forecast, FYI. Instead of a live commentary, we'll have a rolling news story for your perusal, with Andrew Benson your man at the helm. Look out for Sarah Holt's report on today's action later and I'll see you all back over on the football at the weekend. Ta-ra.

KezK2010 on Twitter: "Today is an example as to why you can't call the pecking order for the season. Mercedes all of a sudden on form and RBR +1.6 down!"

1605: Here, then, are your standings from the penultimate testing session of the winter... 1. Schumacher (Mercedes) 2. Alonso (Ferrari) 3. Rosberg (Mercedes) 4. Heidfeld (Renault) 5. Barrichello (Williams) 6. Kobayashi (Sauber) 7. Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) 8. Vettel (Red Bull) 9. Kovalainen (Lotus) 10. Di Resta (Force India) 11. Sutil (Force India) 12. Maldonado (Williams) 13. Button (McLaren) 14. D'Ambrosio (Virgin).

Chequered flag
1601: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that.

1559: Phew - my tuppence appears safe, for we have our second RED FLAG of the day, caused by Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull sitting stationary at the exit of the pit-lane.

1557: The session very much drawing to a close now, and I'll stick tuppence on Michael Schumacher topping the charts come 1600 GMT. Always been one to stick my neck on the line, me. Last of the big-spenders.

1552: Williams driver Pastor Maldonado posts a 1:24.108 to go 12th in the standings - one ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button. And that's after 52 laps from the Briton. Dum de dum.

Chris, Halifax via text: "Who's in the Mercedes tomorrow? Thought Nico [Rosberg] but he's in for Michael this afternoon. That'd mean 2.5 days in car for Nico, 1.5 Michael? Am confused!"
It is scheduled to be Nico Rosberg tomorrow, but with rain forecast the team wanted to give him time in the dry today to compare his feedback with Michael's of earlier.

1550: We've got 10 minutes of the session remaining.

Lotus F1 team on Facebook: "We're concentrating on long runs to better understand the tyre, try a couple of settings for tyre preparation, some mechanical set-up solutions, and different approaches to tyre characterisation."

1540: With 20 minutes to go in the session, Jenson Button pits after a five-lap run before returning to the track straight away. Fernando Alonso is back out for what will be his 133rd lap today - blimey - which is six more than Heikki Kovalainen and 34 more than Kamui Kobayashi. He might just sleep well tonight, the Spaniard.

Leo from London via text: "It's quite early to say Michael [Schumacher] is back. Mercedes is still struggling with pace in long runs. I am still waiting for a true performance from the seven-times world champion."

1533: Nick Heidfeld re-emerges in his Renault.

1530: Nico Rosberg goes third in the timings with a 1:21.788 flying lap... Mercedes looking pacy here... while Jenson Button is currently lapping in the 1:28s. Half an hour of the session remaining.

1529: Is that Fernando Alonso done for the day, though? He pits his Ferrari, cuts the engine, and wheels back into the garage. The Spaniard is currently second in the timings behind Michael Schumacher's fastest lap of 1:21.249.

Lofty45 on Twitter: "Granny could have knit a new engine faster than McLaren."
Would've been a touch woolly in terms of performance, though, surely?

1526: Here comes Jenson Button! Followed swiftly by Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg and Paul di Resta.

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Barcelona: "My eagle-eyed friend at 5 Live tells me that Jenson Button has just gone back into the McLaren garage. Car out soon then?"

1523: RE: 1523 - Clue: Very.

1522: Ferrari's Fernando Alonso is the only man out on the track now, and there is still no sign of Jenson Button's McLaren. It's worth reminding ourselves that, with Lewis Hamilton set for testing duties tomorrow, this is Button's last day of testing before the season-opener in Australia. How frustrating must this be for the Briton?

1518: Nico Rosberg betters his time with a 1:22.495 - but that's good enough only for sixth on the charts and Autosport report that "his tyres looked as if they were past their best".

ScottH_ on Twitter: "Will Nico [Rosberg] be ignoring any instructions he may have and give it everything to beat Michael [Schumacher]'s time?"

Chloe, bored at work, via text: "Can I follow in Baz's shoes and tempt fate by saying that Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, Sauber, Renault, Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso, Lotus, Virgin & Hispania all look 100% reliable for this season. There we go, that should help McLaren."

1509: Sebastian Vettel, who is yet to set the world alight today, is having a run now in his Red Bull. Kamui Kobayashi's problem was a drive-shaft issue with his Sauber, apparently.

Georgio_1999 on Twitter: "RE: Baz's message... Is it just me or has Button just gone under 1:20? I don't want to tempt fate but that has to be a good sign, right? [p.s. let me know if it works]."

1505: More news from our girl on the scene in Barcelona Sarah Holt - McLaren are hopeful that Jenson Button will get out before the close of today's session at 1600 GMT, so they say, following that engine change to his car. Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, posts a 1:22.709 on only his second lap in the Mercedes to go seventh in the timings.

Williams F1 Team on Twitter: "Pastor Maldonado getting ready to jump in the car, team doing radio checks -we will be out on track very soon!"

dirk_69_digler on Twitter: "Kobayashi and Sauber have looked smart all testing, gutsy driving, he is one I'm looking forward to see driving this year."

1457: That's our GREEN FLAG and we're back up and running. There endeth Baz's moment of glory. But what a moment. Well done Baz.

Mike, Gateshead, via text: "Schumacher's back, a true legend. He said give me the right car and I will do the biz, well a 1:21.249 is more than impressive. Roll on Albert Park..."

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Barcelona: "Kamui Kobayashi sits on the side of his Sauber as he causes a red flag to unfurl by coming to a stop at Turn 3. He has a good look around his car before being ferried back to Sauber HQ."

1453: That has to be a record for most mentions of a reader in one post, right? Well done Baz. Top work.

1451: Everyone look at Baz. Now. We have a RED FLAG after Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber stops at Turn 3. We're all looking at you Baz. Just before that, Fernando Alonso made his fourth pit of his run. But that's by-the-by. All because of Baz. Yes you, Baz.

Anon, London, via text: "It's anonymous for a reason! I don't want my boss to read the msg and think I'm not working when I'm really not working."

Baz from Southampton via text: "Is it just me or have there been no red flags today? I don't want to tempt fate but that has to be a good sign, right?"

Mercedes F1 team on Twitter: "To answer the queries! We expect rain tomorrow so switching [drivers] now gives Nico [Rosberg] the chance to run the upgrades in the dry and give his input."

1445: As Mercedes prepare to send Nico Rosberg out following Michael Schumacher's stints of earlier, it's interesting to note that Ferrari have labelled the German veteran's fastest lap of the day of 1:21.249 "impressive". Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Lotus's Heikki Kovalainen are the only men out on the track as it stands - all on long runs.

Anon via text: "Are McLaren still in the garage? Are they doing any testing this week? Have they even completed a race stint? Will they be able to complete the Australian GP? What's going on??"
Erm... I think I'm right in saying... yes, yes, no, who knows?

1438: Oh, he's lost it. Completely gone. Fernando Alonso follows a lap of 1:49... with a 1:56. The Spaniard is well and truly shot. Oh, no. Hold on. He's back on pace with a 1:27 next lap. Nice.

1435: And that seems as good a time as any - with less than 90 minutes of the session remaining - to remind you how to get in touch. Not because I'm lonely... this time... just because I want you involved. So drop me a line via the Twitter hashtag #BBCF1, @sampatricklyon or wing a text message my way via 81111 (UK). Go on, you know you want to. Jubbly.

1429: Mercedes report that that is Michael Schumacher done for the day after 69 laps and fastest time of 1:21.268. "We're now changing the car to Nico [Rosberg]'s set-up now and he'll be out shortly to complete today's programme and try out our latest upgrades." There you go, then, Nico... follow that.

Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne on Twitter: "Tried to last 20 laps for a stint but drop off was big at the end. Repeating that run with some set-up changes. Out again, 100 lap done so far."

1423: Here comes Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull.

1421: Fernando Alonso is into three figures for the day, the Spaniard bringing up his 100th lap with another steady-Eddie circuit.

1417: One lap shy of his 100th of the day, Heikki Kovalainen stops in his Lotus. Earning his corn, today, the Finn. He's lapped more than anyone so far - though Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, with 97, is not too far away.

1413: Fernando Alonso, off the back of the second pit-stop of his long run, posts the fastest lap of his outing so far with a 1:27.255 in his Ferrari. Cruising.

Lotus F1 team on Facebook: "Review from this morning: we did some performance runs, worked on balance, some set-up and aero work to characterise the latest aero package and set up the car around that. In the background we also worked on engine mapping to improve driveability, and launches."

1406: Fernando Alonso and Heikki Kovalainen continue on their long runs, while Michael Schumacher - fastest man of the day, so far - re-emerges from the pits once more.

Official Renault F1 team on Twitter: "The plan is still to simulate a race distance before the end of the day. Expect a few long runs from Nick [Heidfeld]."

1403: Still no sign of Jenson Button, with McLaren - lest we forget - carrying out a precautionary engine change.

ben_whitmarsh on Twitter: "The new F111 looks beautiful. HRT have designed a thing of beauty and I cant wait to see it on the track - shame it will be so slow, though."

Douglas, Scotland via text: "After seeing the new Hispania car, on first take I thought they had just stolen some old BAR Honda cars! Could be an idea for them this season..."

1355: He's 15 laps into his run, interrupted by a pit-stop, and Fernando Alonso still looks no more troubled than as if he were out for a Sunday morning drive... despite reaching speeds of around 190mph down the Circuit de Catalunya straight. I get a bit windy when the bus goes over a speed bump at more than 5mph. I'm not sure I'd make the greatest F1 driver, it has to be said. I'd rock the after-parties, mind.

Liam_McDonagh on Twitter: "Got to love Hispania; 'Your Sponsor Logo Here' & 'This Could Be You' & 'Cool Spot' - Can't fault their effort."

Paulo in London via text: "When you have Martin Brundle saying that McLaren's car is a 'mess' then you have to agree that things don't look too rosy."

1345: Fernando Alonso, very much back out and about, is the very definition of control and consistency out there as he runs through his laps in the 1:30s. Nick Heidfeld is out having a run now - but three-quarters of an hour into the session and very few drivers are posting flying laps. None have bettered their morning's effort. Yet.

Hispania's F111
1342: Now then, as I mentioned earlier, Hispania spent the lunch hour unveiling their new car, the F111. Pictures appear to be slowing in reaching us, however, so here's a pic from the official team website. Thoughts?

mwhe87 on Twitter: "We all know McLaren are just playing mind games. Come the first race they will surprise everyone with their blistering pace...I hope."

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Barcelona: "We're up and running after lunch. Sebastian Vettel is still chilling out at Red Bull headquarters along with Dad Norbert."

1335: For more on that exclusive chat with Mercedes boss Ross Brawn, by the way, check out Sarah Holt's piece up on the website now. Hurry back, though, or you'll miss more barretinas chat and no-one - I repeat, no-one - wants that.

Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne on Twitter: "More long runs on high fuel for this afternoon [for Heikki Kovalainen]. Looks like the rain may hold off."

1327: Ooh Fernando Alonso's adulation takes the slightest of hits as he returns straight to the pits to the disappointment of the watching faithful. Barretinas making a renewed charge in the popularity stakes. Sort of. Heikki Kovalainen is out now.

1325: No chance of an afternoon siesta at the Circuit de Catalunya as the crowd welcomes the return to the track of Fernando Alonso. He's more popular round these parts than barretinas that boy.

Williams F1 Team on Twitter: "We had an oil leak so the team are making a change as a precaution because it's a high-mileage engine."

1318: As Ferrari reveal on Twitter that Fernando Alonso is due to do a race simulation this afternoon, Paul di Resta is the only man to have posted a time so far this afternoon - a 1:27.015 - more than three seconds off Adrian Sutil's fastest time this morning. He still has 'Di Resta' the session to improve upon that, though. Ahem. Sorry.

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Barcelona: "A foray into the pitlane saw me nearly get run over by today's fastest man Michael Schumacher as he returned his Mercedes for the lunch break. I'm exaggerating of course. The seven-time champion had it all under control but I was standing at the garage when Schumacher turned the car towards me which caused my stomach to flip. After that excitement, I had a quick chat with Mercedes boss Ross Brawn. He believes the updated Mercedes which Schumacher set his top time in is 'a step forward' and 'quite encouraging'. Brawn also explained that Schumacher's time was 'fairly representive of qualifying' and that the team's programme on Friday was focused on testing the new front wing. Anything else? 'The drivers are giving us good feedback. The car is more consistent now, we are able to make changes to it that have an effect. Everything is moving in the right direction.'"

1315: Time for a word from our girl on the scene, Sarah Holt...

Steve, Woking via text: "Ok, all this McLaren 'fail' talk is getting really boring now. All of you seem to forget that despite a lack of rear downforce last season McLaren were competitive right up until the last race and actually led the standings in both championships for a good portion of the season! Give them a break - new car, new direction in design, oh and starting a production car range! Not doing too bad in my opinion."

1310: Oh, and here comes Paul di Resta. The Scot has replaced Adrian Sutil, who has the afternoon off to rest his quiff, in the Force India this afternoon.

1309: Following a brief return to the pits, Kamui Kobayashi gets back on track to join home favourite Fernando Alonso out and about. Neither pulling up trees in the timings just yet, though.

1304: Kamui Kobayashi is the first man out after the break in his Sauber.

1303: RE: 1302 - I previously said "season" (now corrected) when I of course meant "session". Erm... at least that's what McLaren will hope.

corianasix on Twitter: "All this McLaren 'fail' is depressing. I'm giving up and just cheering for Nico Rosberg this season."

1302: And bad news, too, for those of you hoping for something special from Jenson Button early in this session - his McLaren team are undertaking a precautionary engine change so the Briton will be in the pits for some time...

1300: Right, three hours and very much the business end of the penultimate day's testing in Barcelona ahead of the season-opener in Australia in a fortnight's time... what chances anyone usurping Michael Schumacher's rip-roaring lap of earlier this afternoon? Not huge if you're looking for something from the new Hispania car - unveiled during the lunch break - as some parts are still stuck in Spanish customs. Oops-a-daisy.

WilkinsonAshley on Twitter: "You have to wonder if Lewis will stay beyond his contract in 2012 if McLaren fail to build a WDC-capable car three years in a row."

Mark, Nottingam via text: "It's a good job the Bahrain GP was put back, sounds like most teams in no condition to finish a race if it was held this weekend!"

Williams F1 Team on Twitter: "Lunch break in Barcelona. Pastor Maldonado will be in the car this afternoon."

Chequered flag
1200: There's the chequered flag and that ends the morning session with Schumacher top ahead of Alonso, Heidfeld, Barrichello and Kobayashi. The Hispania launch is due during the lunch break so I'll see if I can bring you pix of that later, but in the mean-time have yourselves a break. See you at 1300 GMT.

Stanway from Essex via text: "Good signs from Schumacher and Mercedes. Hopefully the new front wing will bring them a little more time. Is Alonso doing one lap runs as well?"
He's done a couple, his fastest lap of 1:21.614 coming from one.

1155: All the drivers winding down now, by the look of things. Still time for a quick lap, of course - but for now it looks like Michael Schumacher will enjoy his lunch atop the timing charts with his lap of 1:21.268.

R via text: "Alonso running before lunch? He'll be quicker in a Ferrari surely?"

A crazy Button fan via text: "Disappointed with Button's times but so excited to see Schumacher at the top again! Fingers crossed for some entertaining races from him this season!!"

1147: Fernando Alonso is back out for a run before lunch.

Owen in Cheshire via text: "Everyone said it was brave of Jenson to move to McLaren and be up against Lewis - maybe he was brave to move to McLaren who are consistently failing to produce a championship-winning car. Harsh I know!"

Anon via text: "RE: 1120 - Is 'over-watering spider plants' code for a fake rain idea? She might know more about this than you think."

1139: Just to underline that lap of 1:21.268 earlier was not a freak run, Michael Schumacher sticks another top lap in in Barcelona, a 1:21.412 in his Mercedes with a single-lap run. That's better than Fernando Alonso's best run so far today, of course. Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, is whizzing around in the mid-1:24s in his Red Bull - something, as yet, Jenson Button could only dream of in his McLaren.

29wes28 on Twitter: "I don't think McLaren are sandbagging - but I don't think they are strong either. And the aero paint just makes me plain nervous!"

Sam at brands hatch in Kent via text: "To disgruntled student, just write your dissertation on F1, I did and that was for a politics degree. Anyway - Come on McLaren, just pop in a 1.21 to show us you can!"

1130: Fine run from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard clocking a 1:21.614 - 0.346 off the record time at Barcelona testing set by Michael Schumacher earlier this morning.

1125: And now out comes Jenson Button. The Briton is currently 10th in the standings - causing more than a little worry from McLaren fans, not to mention Button and team-mate Lewis Hamilton themselves, the pair currently showing all the optimism of a worm out for an early-morning stroll in a large bird menagerie.

1120: As Sebastian Vettel starts to nudge his Red Bull around the Circuit de Catalunya in a speedier-but-not-yet-pedal-to-the-metal pace of the 1:25s, Fernando Alonso re-emerges for a saunter before lunch in the Ferrari. If you listen to Mark Webber and Felipe Massa - it will be between those two teams for the championship this season. If you listen to my neighbour Mrs Appleyard, "Her at number 37 over-waters her spider plants." It's all about opinions, isn't it?

James, Essex, via text: "Some optimism for McLaren fans - I don't think Red Bull were the fastest car in testing last season. Maybe they're hiding their true pace?"

1111: Renault's Nick Heidfeld moves up to second in the charts with a one-lap run of 1:22.073 - still 0.8 seconds off Michael Schumacher's fastest time of the day.

From a disgruntled student via text: "Supposed to be doing my dissertation today which is due in on the 21st but keep getting distracted by testing."

1105: Fastest laps of the day for McLaren's Jenson Button - a 1:25.848 - and Kamui Kobayashi, who posts a 1:22.354 in his Sauber to move up to fifth in the day's standings.

1100: Three hours into the session, then, here's your standings run-down: 1. Schumacher (Mercedes) 2. Alonso (Ferrari) 3. Barrichello (Williams) 4. Heidfeld (Renault) 5. Vettel (Red Bull) 6. Kovalainen (Lotus) 7. Kobayashi (Sauber) 8. Sutil (Force India) 9. Alguersuari (Toro Rosso) 10. Button (McLaren) 11. D'Ambrosio (Virgin).

1055: Another single-lap run from Michael Schumacher, but the German Mercedes driver can't match his time of earlier. He still tops the charts, though. And by a distance too.

Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne on Twitter: "Just done some tyre pressure scans, now looking at comparing tyres on long runs."

F1 photographer Sutton Images on Twitter: "McLaren running aero paint everywhere today and now on the air intake into the engine or somewhere else! But they are still not happy with something on the car."

1043: Sebastian Vettel is starting to lay some times of some significance down, now, for the first time today - his best a run of 1:23.012 so far to put the Red Bull driver fifth.

Renault F1 team on Twitter: "Nick [Heidfeld] is getting on with the programme and evaluating a few changes to the car this morning. The plan is for a race distance this afternoon."

Anon via text: "RE: Ted Kravitz and the MaLaren bulge - seen the pic, looks like a bottle nosed dolphin side-on. A secret strategy to counter Bernie's track watering??"

1035: Clouds forming over the Circuit de Catalunya now... perhaps the rain that has been forecast for later tonight might be rolling in sooner than expected? Bernie Ecclestone would love that right...?

1029: Jaime Alguersuari, a few minutes after posting his first time of the day, moves up to seventh in the charts with a 1:26.014 in his Toro Rosso. The Barcelona crowd are absolutely apoplectic with joy as a result. Maybe.

BBC pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz: "Remember the row over Red Bull's flexible front wing last season? I have a feeling we are set for another season of controversy on this subject as other teams adopt the philosophy of 'if you can't beat them join them'. As we learnt last year, if the wing passes the FIA load tests in the garage it does not matter how much it flexes on track. McLaren have had to catch up in this area and that explains an unusual bulge they ran on the nose of the car in Barcelona on Wednesday, out of which ran metal measuring rods that went from sensors mounted on top of the nose down to the front-wing end plate. The idea was to see how much the new front wing was flexing on track. I asked McLaren about this and they told me it was 'part of ongoing longer-term development work'. You can see a picture of the bulge on ."

1024: And talking of Red Bull...

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Barcelona: "My intrepid cohort at @5livef1 reports that there are no problems for Sebastian Vettel despite him only doing seven laps and being 10th. Red Bull say they are just checking some things and that he will be up and running soon."

1018: Mercedes' Michael Schumacher is now atop the timings with a lap of one minute, 21.268 seconds, 0.8 faster than Fernando Alonso's flying lap of a few minutes ago and half a second faster than anyone has gone in Barcelona testing so far. Encouraging?

matroycem on Twitter: "Why are McLaren always playing catch-up with Ferrarri, Red Bull, this is a team who have got one of the best setups in F1."

1012: Jaime Alguesuari still yet to post a time in his Toro Rosso today, the Spaniard having completed just two full laps so far. Plenty for the home faithful to cheer from Fernando Alonso, though, who has completed 35 laps and is now back on top of the timings with a 1:22.104 to push Rubens Barrichello down into second.

Mark, Nottingham via text: "New F1 dictionary definition, Upgrade - technical term for new piece of kit intended to scare other teams it will improve performance but actually hinders it, see also 'spanner in the works'."

james_lear on Twitter: "C'mon JB, show us what your McLaren is made of! Really hoping for a positive session for Jenson! Also looking forward to what "Quick Nick" can squeeze out of the Renault! Nice to see him back this year!"

1002: For those of you with a looser grip on sarcasm than others, yes that last entry was meant with tongue firmly in cheek.

1000: Two hours into the session, then, and it's Williams' Rubens Barrichello that tops the timings with a 1:22.233 - 0.3 seconds quicker than Fernando Alonso in his (no-one else's) Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel is last in the standings with a best lap of 1:30.288 - the world champion is utterly, 100% and completely unofficially not even in the top nine fastest drivers in F1 today. Blimey.

0957: Quite a few more people in attendance at the Circuit de Catalunya today, possibly as a result of the Fernando Alonso-affect I'd wager. A warmer start to proceedings is slowly making way to a chillier front in Barcelona - making Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost the early contender for the "Most sensible wardrobe choice" award sporting, as he is, a Sebastian Vettel-style woolly hat. Protect those ears, people, protect those ears.

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Barcelona: "Here at media HQ, Autosport newshound Jonathan Noble has jokingly been pretending he is in a parallel universe at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Had the race not been called off because of civil unrest in Bahrain, then he would be watching the cars circling round in practice today. There's no doubt, however, that delaying the start of the season until the Australian Grand Prix has helped the teams' preparations. Williams technical director Sam Michael explains: 'Getting an extra two weeks, helps production a lot in terms of making parts. You can easily tidy up the stuff you're doing and do more. It's helped everyone.' Mercedes boss Ross Brawn also said they had used the extra time wisely. But it may have helped Hispania more than others as the Spanish team are only planning to introduce their new car later today."

0940: Rubens Barrichello, meanwhile, goes top of the timings in Barcelona with a 1:22.412 - without Kers, remember, which Williams have abandoned for the rest of the test (see 0850). Jerome D'Ambrosio posts Virgin's first time of the day, a 1:29.990.

0934: Boom. Fernando Alonso goes top of the timings by well over a second in his Ferrari with a run of 1:22.588 - before Nick Heidfeld moves into the spot behind him with a 1:23.651 in his Renault.

0930: Back in Barcelona and Jenson Button's timings got down to the mid-1:26s before he pitted his McLaren, while Kamui Kobayashi did a few circuits in the 1:27s before he too returned to the garage. A two-lap run from Rubens Barrichello yields his fastest lap of the day so far, the Williams driver posting 1:24.544 to move up to second in the charts.

McLaren driver Jenson Button: "Devastating news from Tokyo and Sendai in Japan. My thoughts go out to everyone effected. Try and be strong and pull together."

BBC F1 presenter Jake Humphrey: "Taking a look at BBC News, Japan's a fascinating country, prayers with all out there. So many natural disasters it seems at the moment..."

Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen: "Heard about Japanese earthquake, thoughts with them here at the test."

Karun Chandhok: "Shocking news and images from Japan... Thoughts and prayers with the people out there."

0920: Now then, away from events in Barcelona for a moment, as you can imagine the terrible news emerging from Japan this morning is getting plenty of attention from everyone at the Circuit de Catalunya. A massive earthquake - measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale - sparked a tsunami and caused extensive damage in the north-east of the country, and plenty in and around Formula 1 have been sending their condolences. I'll post a few of them up...

0915: First time of the day from Jenson Button - a 1:32.768.

Tristan in Oxfordshire via text: "Got a feeling McLaren are going to step up to the mark in terms of performance today. You can never count them out!"

0912: And it was just a moment - Nick Heidfeld (Renault), Jenson Button (McLaren) and Jerome D'Ambrosio (Virgin) are now out on track.

0910: Minutes after suggesting he was on a long run, Fernando Alonso pits his Ferrari to prove me completely wrong. Stick with me folks, I know my stuff, I really do. Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher - who still boasts the fastest lap of the day with a 1:23.948 seconds - are also in, meaning the track at the Circuit de Catalunya is, for the moment, empty.

0905: Red Bull's world champion Sebastian Vettel sets his first time of the day, a data-gathering run of 1:36.271. Fernando Alonso is currently circling in around the 1:26-1:27 range, suggesting the Spaniard is on a long run.

Ollie, London via text: "Toro Rosso proved invaluable to Red Bull in the final race of last year - managing to hold up Alonso. Could TR's improved performance mark closer ties between the two teams for just such situations?"

0858: Rubens Barrichello is dominating the low 1:25 mark in his Williams as he continues his Friday morning coast - a lot better than Heikki Kovalainen, who is dragging his Lotus around Circuit de Catalunya in the mid 1:29s on the back of 16 laps so far. Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, has already had enough of sitting about the Ferrari garage a full eight minutes after coming in and is back out in his Ferrari. As opposed to anyone else's Ferrari. That'd just be weird.

Rich, Bristol via text: "I wonder if the McLaren is as bad as everyone is saying? Maybe it has got the potential to be a race-winning car after a few races! C'mon Jens and Lewis!"

0850: Just Rubens Barrichello and Adrian Sutil out on track at the moment, with Fernando Alonso back in after an eight-lap stint and Michael Schumacher likewise after five laps at an average of 1:24.300 seconds. Red Bull, however, look like they are readying themselves for a stint with Sebastian Vettel's engine revving in the garage. Jenson Button, I can tell you, performed a practice pit-stop earlier in his McLaren. It really is all happening.

Williams F1 team on Twitter: "We won't be running Kers for the rest of the test in Barcelona."

dtturner07 on Twitter: "I wonder if yesterday's day off will prove of any use to McLaren. One hopes so."

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Barcelona: "We've had a few questions during this test asking what has happened to Mercedes' promised upgrade. Well the team have already run some improvements in Barcelona, including a modified exhaust layout, but Michael Schumacher is expected to try out further updates today. Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn explains: 'We have a new front wing, different brake ducts and turning vanes. We already had the floor on and the exhaust system.' Nico Rosberg said he felt a lot more hopeful after the first upgrade package and Brawn also shared his optimism. 'The improvements should put us in a better position,' he added. 'We should be respectable in Melbourne.'"

0844: Talking of Mercedes, here's another word from Sarah...

0841: Moments after Fernando Alonso sets the day's fastest time on his second flying lap - a 1:24.775 seconds - the Ferrari man is pushed down into second by Mercedes' Michael Schumacher who posts a 1:23.948. The other drivers to have posted a time so far are Rubens Barrichello, Kamui Kobayashi, Nick Heidfeld, Heikki Kovalainen and Adrian Sutil - in that order.

Dominic, Bristol via text: "What are the chances that the notable rear wing will be dropped mid-season? I don't like it at all. Really pleased to see Sauber resurgent."

0835: Right, I just know you lot are all champing at the bit to get involved in this here commentary, so do your thing via the Twitter hashtag #BBCF1, drop me a line directly @sampatricklyon or wing a text message my way via 81111 (UK). It really is that simple.

Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne on Twitter: "Installation lap done and going for first runs. Doing some aero mapping runs as we have the new front wing on."

0825: All 11 cars we're expecting to see this morning have all been out for their installation laps, too, with the likes of Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher getting an early feel of conditions. Hispania, I'm told, will join in the session after lunch.

0822: So far, by the way, we've got three lap times on the board, from Michael Schumacher, Adrian Sutil and Rubens Barrichello, the latter's the quickest so far at 1:25.582 seconds. I'll stick two quid on that being beaten before the day's end.

0820: And before I get round to a bit of house-keeping in a minute, a reminder of your runners and riders for today: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), Jenson Button (McLaren), Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), Nick Heidfeld (Renault), Rubens Barrichello (Williams), Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta (Force India), Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber), Jaime Alguesuari (Toro Rosso), Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus), Jerome D'Ambrosio (Virgin) and un as-yet unspecified Hispania driver. Star-studded.

The sun is out
0815: A quick weather update for all you Michael Fish wannabes out there, then: it's currently clear, bright and dry at the Circuit de Catalunya, with that very much the forecast for the rest of the day. Air temperature is 7.2 degrees with a track temperature of 15, apparently. Which is nice.

BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Barcelona: "Morning. Can you believe it is my final day of pre-season testing? There have been moments of deja-vu and even the drivers are beginning to tire of answering the same questions about their form, ambitions and rivalries. But in just under 14 days the Formula 1 field will gather for first practice at the Australia Grand Prix, and for Red Bull, Renault, Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Lotus and Virgin this is their final chance to make preparations. McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams and Hispania - who are due to unveil their new car this morning - will test for the last time on Saturday."

0810: So, without much further ado, let's hear from Sarah...

0807: We're already up and running for the benefit of the handful of die-hard fans in situ in Barcelona, by the way, home-boy Jaime Alguesuari the first man out and about in his Toro Rosso.

0805: I say "welcome to Barcelona"... I'm not there of course, good golly no. I've left that to our inimitable trackside reporter Sarah Holt, for I personally function far better in a poorly air-conditioned office with no TV pictures or radio commentary to guide me, as I'm sure you can imagine. Sarah, as always, will be our eyes and ears on the ground - I'm here mostly to make the place look pretty. And, you know, deliver timings, opinions and general irreverent nonsense. Aces.

0800: Day four of the final pre-season test event at the Circuit de Catalunya, the return of McLaren's Jenson Button and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to the track, and less than a fortnight until Formula 1's 2011 season-opener in Australia. Welcome to Barcelona peeps.

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see also
Car upgrades boost Mercedes hopes
11 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Hispania unveil 2011's final car
11 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Webber expects fight with Ferrari
10 Mar 11 |  Formula One
F1 testing photos
12 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Kubica warned of 'long' recovery
10 Mar 11 |  Formula One
Hamilton downbeat on title hopes
09 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Vettel on song as Hamilton toils
09 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Liuzzi given drive with Hispania
09 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Button pessimistic for opening GP
08 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
F1 season preview - how testing has gone
08 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Bahrain given deadline for new GP
08 Mar 11 |  Formula 1
Massa leads way in Barcelona test
21 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Barrichello tops Jerez test times
13 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Kubica sets test pace for Renault
03 Feb 11 |  Formula 1

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