Ferrari's Felipe Massa topped the first day of Pirelli tire testing in Abu Dhabi, the first time that Formula 1 teams have tried the Italian manufacturer's new-for-2011 rubber.
The Brazilian complained throughout the 2010 season that tire warm-up struggles were to blame for his poor qualifying performances, saying recently, "I'm sure if I fix the big problem I had this year I will be back in the fight." By topping the first test on the new tires, he got his preparations for next season off to a perfect start.
The Brazilian set a best time of 1m40.170sec to displace World Champion Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) at the top of the times during the afternoon session. Massa's time was two tenths slower than that of Ferrari tester Jules Bianchi from the recent young driver test and half a second off teammate Fernando Alonso's qualifying lap for the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Vettel was only three tenths off Massa and seven tenths ahead of McLaren test driver Gary Paffett, who is driving in place of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button throughout the tire test.
Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi was fourth fastest ahead of Renault's Robert Kubica, who only completed 39 laps after hitting mechanical trouble, with Rubens Barrichello ending the day sixth fastest for Williams. The vastly experienced Brazilian completed almost 100 laps during the day, spending the morning concentrating on assessing the aerodynamic impact of the new tires before working on tire behavior in the afternoon.
Scotsman Paul di Resta, who beat Vettel to the 2006 Formula 3 Euro Series title, ended up seventh fastest despite not hitting the track until the late afternoon. Force India suffered an exhaust problem in the morning while Adrian Sutil was behind the wheel and spent much of the day rebuilding its car.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was eighth fastest on the first day of a vital test for Mercedes, which struggled with tire use all year. He outpaced Jaime Alguersuari (Toro Rosso), who was the first driver to take to the track in the morning.
Sutil ended the day 10th fastest, only completing 20 laps, with Virgin's Timo Glock ending the day best of the new teams ahead of Heikki Kovalainen (Lotus).
Williams aspirant Pastor Maldonado continued his week of testing with a second day at HRT. He ended the day under nine tenths off Kovalainen.
Pos Driver Car Time Laps
1. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.170s 94
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m40.500s 77
3. Gary Paffett McLaren 1m40.874s 94
4. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m40.950s 83
5. Robert Kubica Renault 1m41.032s 39
6. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m41.425s 91
7. Paul di Resta Force India 1m41.615s 20
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m41.778s 81
9. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m42.019s 71
10. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m42.859s 20
11. Timo Glock Virgin 1m44.124s 78
12. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m44.686s 88
13. Pastor Maldonado Hispania 1m45.728s 83
All timing unofficial