Renault's innovative forward-exhaust R31 set the fastest time on its third day of Formula 1 testing as the opening week of running at Valencia concluded on Thursday.
The day was half done before the team got round to some proper stints, but once running Robert Kubica was soon on the pace. He was the third driver to dip into the 1m13sec and then went quickest of all on a 1m13.144sec with just over an hour to go.
He dipped into the 1m13sec three times, each of which was posted on the first flying lap of a three-lap run. A longer run followed for Renault in the last hour, in which Kubica's pace steadily dropped from the mid-1m16sec into the high 1m17sec – with a steep drop-off after 18 laps.
Adrian Sutil covered the most laps today, 117 and continued Force India's good early form (though in its 2010 car) by finishing second. He was into the 1m14sec on his first run of the day and unleashed a 1m13.2sec on an early three-lapper which was unchallenged until the afternoon. He repeated 1m14sec throughout several short runs during the morning, then switched to running for 10 and 15 laps after lunch and spent most of his afternoon in the 1m19sec.
Like Kubica, Jenson Button was another to take a while to get going. With McLaren running the old car, its focus was largely on tires and the cold temperatures early in the day meant there wasn't much for the team to do.
Button's best time, a 1m13.553sec, was the only lap of the run on which he did it, so possibly a qualifying simulation. A few longer runs followed later one, with the McLaren lapping consistently in the 1m16sec.
After being limited to just a dozen laps by a master cylinder failure yesterday, Mark Webber was eager to get on with things this morning. An early seven-lap run in the 1m15sec and 1m16sec indicated a promising pace, which was underlined by a particularly impressive 20-lap stint around midday, during which he worked down from mid-1m16sec to low 1m15sec as the fuel load decreased.
Then his best times of the day came on the first of five and seven-lap runs, suggesting there's plenty more pace to come from the RB7 than the 1m13.936s Webber delivered.
Ferrari's plans were delayed by an oil leak on the F150 after Felipe Massa had done just 12 laps. He rejoined for the last couple of hours and at first his best times, 1m14.5sec, were set at the beginning of 12-lap runs. He ended the day with a couple of 1m14.0sec on a three-lap run which put him fifth.
Virgin went for a lot of 12-lap runs today with Timo Glock lapping mostly in the 1m17sec, though he dipped into the 1m14sec in a single burst late on to finish the day sixth.
Pastor Maldonado and Williams bucked the trend and began the day with longer runs, the Venezuelan's consistent 1m16sec during those early stints comparing pretty well with those that followed later. He switched to shorter bursts in the afternoon and gradually worked into the 1m14sec, but huge variations in his times suggested Williams was still working on more than just tire/stint analysis. His fastest, 1m14.299sec, was bumped to seventh late on as Williams reverted to a couple of long runs to end the day.
Sergio Perez ended the day eighth for Sauber. He was sidelined after just nine laps when the team to replace the gearbox. He then conducted two long runs late in the morning in the high 1m15sec, before dropping down to a 1m14.4sec on a shorter run later on.
Michael Schumacher spent the morning on short runs, the quickest laps of which were mid to high 1m14sec. Longer runs followed in the afternoon with the best – of 20 laps – averaging in the mid 1m16sec and dipping into the 1m15s occasionally.
Sebastien Buemi spent the majority of his day doing five-lap runs, and worked his way steadily down from 1m17s to 1m15sec. He peaked at a 1m14.8sec and finished 10th.
That left HRT and Narain Karthikeyan 1.7sec adrift at the back. The team never attempted a run longer than five laps and the Indian driver spent most of his time in the 1m17sec, just dipping into the 1m16sec on two and three-lap runs this afternoon.
Lotus' progress today was hampered by its power steering failure yesterday. The team had hoped to get replacement parts from its UK base to Valencia in time for today's testing. But when they couldn't get here in time, Jarno Trulli had to settle for 38 laps of installation laps, system checks and aero testing – meaning he didn't set a proper lap time all day.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Robert Kubica Renault 1m13.144s 95
2. Adrian Sutil Force India Mercedes* 1m13.201s +0.057 117
3. Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes* 1m13.553s +0.409 105
4. Mark Webber Red Bull Renault 1m13.936s +0.792 105
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m14.017s +0.873 80
6. Timo Glock Virgin Cosworth* 1m14.207s +1.063 114
7. Pastor Maldonado Williams Cosworth 1m14.299s +1.155 101
8. Sergio Perez Sauber Ferrari 1m14.469s +1.325 104
9. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m14.537s +1.393 110
10. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso Ferrari 1m14.801s +1.657 73
11. Narain Karthikeyan HRT Cosworth* 1m16.535s +3.391 63
12. Jarno Trulli Lotus Renault no time 38