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Page last updated at 17:27 GMT, Sunday, 20 February 2011

Nico Rosberg topples Lewis Hamilton at Barcelona F1 test

Nico Rosberg
Rosberg provided encouraging signs for struggling Mercedes

By Sarah Holt
BBC Sport at the Circuit de Catalunya

Nico Rosberg stole the headlines from Lewis Hamilton at the Barcelona test as the German set the pace for Mercedes.

A late dash from Rosberg in one minute 23.168 seconds bettered McLaren's long-time leader by 0.690 seconds and Mark Webber's Red Bull by 1.827secs.

Hamilton held sway for much of the day despite a recurrence of reliability problems that have blighted McLaren.

Asked about the car's speed, he said: "It's not too bad, a work in progress. We have more time to come so it's OK."

Felipe Massa spun off the damp track twice and was 10th overall for Ferrari.

The Brazilian was 3.340secs off the pace, while Russian Vitaly Petrov was second for Renault.

Massa lost his early lead at the top of the standings after two excursions off track inside an hour, first into the gravel and then sliding onto the grass.

Ninety-odd laps is a good step for us and we managed a couple of long-ish runs in but of course we want to get more mileage on the car

Lewis Hamilton

Ferrari shrugged off their driver's mistakes, saying they were to be expected in the conditions, which at that time were a damp but drying track and cloudy skies.

The Italian team later stated: "Fortunately, the Ferrari F150th Italia appears to be very tough and after both incidents it was able to run again without losing too much time."

A dry line had begun to form on the asphalt as the lunch interval approached and Toro Rosso reserve Daniel Ricciardo took his opportunity with a series of headline times.

But it was Hamilton, who had been hindered by more technical gremlins in the early part of the day, who had the final say before lunch, setting the fastest time of 1:28.053.

As the sun emerged mid-afternoon to help dry up the track still further, Red Bull's Mark Webber - last year's Spanish Grand Prix winner at the demanding Circuit de Catalunya - set about a race simulation.

It was Red Bull's second such run in as many days, after team-mate and world champion Sebastian Vettel completed one on Saturday.

Webber said the car ran "really, really well".

Massa also did a race simulation, which appeared to be similar in pace to the Red Bull's.

BBC F1 pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz, who is at the test, said: "Webber's race simulation comes to an end with a lap time pretty much identical to those Massa was doing towards the end of his long run.

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton was fastest for much of the day despite more reliability troubles

"It does seem genuinely difficult to find out which of these two cars is the class of the field. Only qualifying at the first race will give us the true answer."

Hamilton, meanwhile, gradually lowered his fastest time with a spell of shorter runs.

But of much more importance to McLaren than headline times is improving the reliability of their 2011 car.

The MP4-26 is only at its second test after the team decided to spend more time fine-tuning it at the factory and sent the 2010 car to the first test in Valencia.

Hamilton said: "We had a couple of technical issues which we were able to sort out.

"Ninety-odd laps is a good step for us and we managed a couple of long-ish runs in but of course we want to get more mileage on the car - and we'll try and do that on Monday."


In contrast, rivals Red Bull, Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes all rolled out their new cars in Valencia and that means that, in theory, they are further down the road in dealing with any problems.

Referring to the reliability of the Red Bull and Ferrari in particular, Hamilton said: "It's crazy. All I can do is laugh because it's incredible, they are really doing fantastic and we've not managed to get to that many laps but slowly and surely we will."

He added that he was still coming to terms with the new Pirelli tyres, which have been designed to degrade quicker than last year's Bridgestones in the hope of spicing up the racing.

"It's difficult to know how much is car and how much of it is tyres but tyres are very difficult to use this year," Hamilton said.

"When you come here it's even more hardcore than it was in the last test than we had.

"Even last year when we had heavy fuel you had to drive it a bit easier on heavy fuel in the race to preserve the tyres.

"Today I probably drove a bit easier on the first long run but the tyres just go away so fast and there's nothing you can do about it.

"The second run I tried to look after it even more and it was like driving an out lap it was just very slow and not particularly exciting. It lasted a little bit longer but it didn't feel like I was racing the car."

Webber, who looked balanced and smooth out on the track, churned out an impressive 139 laps, while Massa went on to clock more than 100 tours as did Mexican rookie Sergio Perez of Sauber.

Webber came to a stop on track with just two minutes of the day left.

Perez had recovered from taking a turn off track as did Pastor Maldonado of Williams.

There was also some good recovery work in the afternoon from Jarno Trulli after Lotus had their progress checked by a radiator leak, a problem which has afflicted the team over the last few days.

Trulli was a respectable 2.286 secs off Rosberg's pace.

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

1 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes one minute 23.168 seconds
2 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault 1:23.463
3 Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.858
4 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Cosworth 1:24.815
5 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 1:24.995
6 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Lotus-Renault 1:25.454
7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari 1:25.557
8 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes 1:25.720
9 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:26.155
10 Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari 1:26.508
11 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin-Cosworth 1:26.598
12 Giorgio Mondini (Swi) Hispania-Cosworth 1:28.178
13 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:28.329
14 Narain Karthikeyan (Ind) Hispania-Cosworth 1:30.772

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see also
Behind the scenes at F1 testing
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F1 testing as it happened
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Unfair to judge McLaren - Button
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Barcelona F1 test photos
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