Mark Webber fired a warning to Red Bull Racing's rivals about the true potential of the RB6 when he delivered a blistering series of quick laps on the first morning of the final preseason test at Barcelona on Thursday.
With Red Bull Racing having run alone at the track on Wednesday for filming purposes, Webber spent Thursday morning concentrating on qualifying simulations. Never completing more than three flying laps at a time, Webber steadily improved over the course of the morning to set his best lap of 1m21.487sec shortly before midday.
To put his performance into perspective, he set eight laps quicker than anyone else managed – and his best time was a whopping 1.027sec faster than Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes GP.
Rosberg, whose team is expected to fit aerodynamic updates to its car for the second day of the test on Friday, concentrated on long run efforts but set his best effort during a short blast before the midday break.
Nico Hulkenberg had been Webber's nearest rival for much of the morning, but eventually ended up third quickest – just 0.17sec behind Rosberg. The Williams driver spent some of the morning working on longer runs before trying some qualifying simulations for his best lap of 1m22.684sec.
Pedro de la Rosa continued BMW Sauber's steady progress in testing to set the fourth-best time of the morning, ahead of a slightly frustrated Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari.
Alonso stopped on track shortly before 10:25 with a suspected mechanical problem, and did not re-emerge until shortly before the midday break. He was only able to complete 22 laps during the morning session.
Behind him, Jenson Button was sixth fastest for McLaren, ahead of Jaime Alguersuari in the Toro Rosso, Vitantonio Liuzzi in the Force India and Vitaly Petrov in the Renault.
There was more frustration for Virgin Racing, which saw Lucas di Grassi hit the barriers at Turn 9 after spinning off the track. The rear of the VR-01 took the brunt of the impact, and it is not clear if the team will be able to repair the damage for the Brazilian to get back out on track before the end of the day.
The other red flag was caused in the first half hour of the morning session when Fairuz Fauzy in the Lotus stopped on track with a hydraulic problem.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m21.487s 57
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m22.514s + 1.027s 58
3. Nico Hulkenberg Williams 1m22.684s + 1.197s 59
4. Pedro de la Rosa Sauber 1m23.321s + 1.834s 53
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m24.580s + 3.093s 22
6. Jenson Button McLaren 1m24.582s + 3.095s 44
7. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m24.86s + 3.382s 72
8. Tonio Liuzzi Force India 1m25.303s + 3.816s 33
9. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m26.208s + 4.721s 54
10. Lucas di Grassi Virgin 1m27.057s + 5.570s 31
11. Fairuz Fauzy Lotus 1m29.795s + 8.308s 37