Webber fastest in wet Barcelona test

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 8:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 March, 2013, 8:51am

Australia’s Mark Webber clocked the best time of the day at a rain-swept Barcelona as the final pre-season test of the winter endured a soggy start on Thursday.

The Red Bull driver timed 1min 22.693sec in the afternoon session after the morning action saw drivers tentatively tackle a Catalunya circuit made treacherous by heavy rain.

“It was pretty heavy, I must say. There was a big tailwind down to Turn One,” he said.

“And in other sections it was pretty dusty. The level of wind wasn’t trivial but to be honest it was tricky enough anyway because of the greasy conditions on the track. We only got one hour at the end of the day in more stable conditions.”

Former world champion Lewis Hamilton had been quickest in the morning but even his 1min 41.614sec, off a modest total of 43 laps in his Mercedes, was a long way off the times set at the same circuit last week.

Hamilton eventually put in 113 laps, the most of any driver and improved his time to 1min 24.348 in the afternoon with France’s Jean-Eric Vergne, in a Toro Rosso, the third fastest in 1:25.017.

Hamilton has now completed 2,040km over five days of winter testing, equivalent to nearly seven Grand Prix distances

“The track started out really wet this morning but thankfully the conditions dried out later on and we were able to complete some proper running,” said Hamilton.

Meanwhile, Force India confirmed Adrian Sutil will drive for them in the new season, signalling a return for the German after a 12-month absence.

Sutil and Scotland’s Paul di Resta will now be the team’s drivers for the this year Grand Prix season, as they were in 2011.

Confirmation of the driver line-up came after Sutil saw off competition for the second Force India berth from reserve driver Jules Bianchi, with the French rookie’s agent telling AFP in Paris on Wednesday his client had lost out.

Sutil, 30, drove for Spyker, as the team was then known, and Force India from 2007 to 2011. He competed in 90 grands prix and achieved a best place of fourth fourth at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza in 2009.

But he lost his Force India drive last season after a conviction for assaulting the co-owner of the Lotus team, Eric Lux, in a Shanghai bar following the 2011 Chinese GP.

“I’m delighted to be back in Formula One, especially with a team I know so well,” Sutil said.

Winter testing in Barcelona will conclude on Saturday ahead of the season’s opening Grand Prix in Australia on March 17.

Leading times

1. Mark Webber (AUS/Red Bull-Renault) 1:22.693 (90 laps), 2. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:24.348 (113), 3. Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA/Toro Rosso-Ferrari) 1:25.017 (59), 4. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Williams-Renault) 1:26.458 (85), 5. Sergio Perez (MEX/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:26.538 (100), 6. Esteban Gutierrez (MEX/Sauber-Ferrari) 1:26.574 (92), 7. Paul di Resta (GBR/Force India-Mercedes) 1:27.107 (57), 8. Felipe Massa (BRA/Ferrari) 1:27.541 (112), 9. Max Chilton (GBR/Marussia-Cosworth) 1:28.166 (78), 10. Charles Pic (FRA/Caterham-Renault) 1:28.644 (83), 11. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Lotus-Renault) 1:34.928 (52)