Michael Schumacher was quickest and Nico Rosberg third-fastest on the final major day of winter testing at Barcelona, as Mercedes took plenty of encouragement from its new upgrade package.
Today was the first day that Mercedes' full raft of Melbourne developments had been on the car, and Schumacher wasted no time in showing their potential. A series of qualifying-style one-lap runs this morning took him to 1m21.249sec, as he beat Ferrari's Fernando Alonso by 0.365sec and went half a second quicker than anyone had done at Barcelona this winter before today.
Mercedes is one of the teams staying at Catalunya to test tomorrow as well, but with forecasts suggesting a wet Saturday, the team elected to put Nico Rosberg in the car for the final part of today to make sure he got some dry mileage with the latest version of the car. Rosberg managed 19 laps to Schumacher's 67 and managed to grab third with a time half a second off the pace.
Alonso's lap to split the Mercedes also came on a qualifying-style run. Ferrari attempted a race simulation later, but it was interrupted by a red flag for Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber stopping on the circuit, although Alonso still managed 141 laps.
Most of today's top times came on qualifying practices, including Nick Heidfeld's 1m22.073sec to take fourth in the Renault. He switched to longer runs for the afternoon but spent some time stuck in the garage while issues were attended to.
While Rubens Barrichello's fifth-place time for Williams came on a qualifying simulation, it was his race distance form that was most notable. The Brazilian's times only faded by around a second across each 10-12 lap stint, suggesting far less of a tire degradation issue than had been seen on many long runs this winter.
Sauber and Toro Rosso took sixth and seventh with Kamui Kobayashi and Jaime Alguersuari, their times coming on short runs as well.
Champion team Red Bull's final day of winter testing was a low-key one. Sebastian Vettel completed a relatively low total of 63 laps, spending much of his session on runs of around five to six laps in the 1m23sec/1m24sec range, and avoiding the push for fast times seen from Red Bull earlier in the week. He then caused the red flag to come out with a minute to go when his car stopped at the pit exit.
Lotus was very encouraged with the performance of its latest aerodynamic parts, with Heikki Kovalainen completing a mammoth 137 laps on the way to ninth. His best time of 1m23.437sec – 2.1sec off the pace – came from a short run.
Force India split its day between Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, who were 10th and 11th.
Williams also intended to give both drivers a run, but the need for an engine change meant Pastor Maldonado only had 11 laps on track in the end.
An engine change also cost McLaren a lot of running. Jenson Button only covered 57 laps, most on short runs but none on a low-fuel pace.
All 12 teams were present as HRT unveiled its F111 in the lunch break, but the team was unable to run as some parts had yet to arrive.
Most squads have now finished their winter running for 2011, but McLaren, Williams, Ferrari, Hispania and Mercedes will stay on for a final day tomorrow.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps
1. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m21.249s 67
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m21.614s + 0.365s 141
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m21.788s + 0.539s 22
4. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m22.073s + 0.824s 67
5. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m22.233s + 0.984s 89
6. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m22.315s + 1.066s 98
7. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m22.675s + 1.426s 72
8. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m22.933s + 1.684s 64
9. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m23.437s + 2.188s 138
10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m23.653s + 2.404s 42
11. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m23.921s + 2.672s 26
12. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m24.108s + 2.859s 11
13. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.837s + 4.588s 57
14. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m27.375s + 6.126s 46
All timing unofficial