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Sebastian Vettel sets searing pace at Barcelona test

Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull
Vettel was more than a second clear of the field for much of the day

BY Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at the Circuit de Catalunya

World champion Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheets for the second day running at the Barcelona test.

The Red Bull driver unleashed two consecutive fastest laps with a best of one minute 23.315 seconds to head Jaime Alguersuari's Toro Rosso by 0.204secs.

Fernando Alonso's progress for Ferrari was halted by reliability problems and he was 0.663secs back in third.

McLaren had another difficult day, with Jenson Button 1.6secs adrift, just ahead of Force India's Paul di Resta.

After setting the pace on Friday, Vettel eked more time out of the Red Bull as the team set to work practising qualification runs before turning their attention to a longer spell on track in the afternoon.

Under the watchful eye of team principal Christian Horner and chief technical officer Adrian Newey on the pit wall, Vettel was in peerless form as he motored through his programmes.

We expect Red Bull to be very competitive but there is a lot to come from Ferrari as well

Fernando Alonso
Ferrari driver

Team-mate Mark Webber, who went to talk to his team-mate in the garage after arriving at the track, takes over driving duties from Vettel for the final two days.

Alonso, who has ear-marked Red Bull as his chief rivals again this season, ran into problems in Barcelona, causing the first red flag of the day with an electronics issue and was delayed further by a mechanical problem.

The Spaniard still managed to closed the gap on Red Bull on day two and was duly satisfied as he made way for Felipe Massa for the remainder of the test.

"This is the first day we had some problems but it is nothing to worry about," Alonso, 29, said.

"We have put a lot of mileage on the car, everything is running well and at the moment it feels OK for us.

"We expect Red Bull to be very competitive but there is a lot to come from Ferrari as well."

McLaren's day was also delayed, this time by hydraulics problems, but Button returned to the track in the afternoon on a long run.

it's very difficult to know the pace of people and what they're doing

Jenson Button

The Englishman was 1.6 secs adrift of Vettel's headline time in eighth and there were signs that McLaren were lagging behind Red Bull in race pace too.

BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz explained: "It does look like the McLaren is still significantly slower than the Red Bull when they are on comparable programmes.

"We don't know exactly what tyres each team are running but Vettel was lapping quicker than Button despite being heavier with fuel in the early stages of a full race simulation."

But Button counselled that the headline times were virtually meaningless.

"There are so many things going on and in testing it's so difficult to get an understanding anyway.

"Ferrari does look competitive in terms of consistency but so do a lot of others and the Red Bull looks pretty good but not as good as the Ferrari.

"I still don't know where we stand."

Rubens Barrichello in the Williams
Barrichello topped the times early on for Williams

The new Williams showed some encouraging pace, with veteran Rubens Barrichello topping the times early in the day and the Brazilian ending up fourth fastest overall.

"We had a very productive day completing 118 laps which has helped make up for the time we lost on Friday," Barrichello said.

"Today was the first time I was able to use Kers, running with it activated for about 75% of the day so I am feeling happy.

"We also did some longer runs and I feel we are getting better prepared with everything ready for the start of the season."

Mercedes, who also appear to be off the pace of the front-runners, had another productive day, completing more than 100 laps with Nico Rosberg at the wheel, ending up seventh fastest.

A late spell of short runs on both new and used tyres lifted Renault's Nick Heidfeld up into fifth - and less than a second behind Vettel - after Vitaly Petrov had laboured before lunch.

It was also a positive day for Tonio Liuzzi who was auditioning for the vacant seat at Hispania.

The Italian, who lost his Force India drive to Di Resta, was more than a second faster than Narain Karthikeyan in the 2010 car.

Meanwhile, Scot Di Resta did not return to the track after taking his Force India into the gravel with an hour-and-a-half remaining.

Heikki Kovalainen was encouragingly three seconds off Vettel's pace for Team Lotus while Timo Glock was more than two seconds further back for Virgin.

Lotus had turned the car over to Formula Two driver Ricardo Teixera, 26, in the afternoon before Kovalainen returned for a race simulation.

Fastest times, day two, third pre-season test, Circuit de Catalunya:

1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault one minute 23.315 seconds
2 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:23.519
3 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:23.978
4 Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Williams-Cosworth 1:24.008
5 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) Renault 1:24.242
6 Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari 1:24.243
7 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 1:24.730
8 Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:24.923
9 Paul di Resta (GB) Force India-Mercedes 1:25.194
10 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus-Renault 1:26.421
11 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:26.884
12 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Hispania-Cosworth 1:27.044
13 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin-Cosworth 1:27.242
14 Ricardo Teixeira (Ang) Lotus-Renault 1:31.584

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see also
Unfair to judge McLaren - Button
19 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Behind the scenes at F1 testing
19 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Barcelona F1 test photos
20 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
F1 test - day two as it happened
19 Feb 11 |  Formula 1
Vettel beats Alonso to set pace
18 Feb 11 |  Formula 1

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