Barcelona, Day Three: Fernando Alonso on top as Lotus complete race distance
Lotus, meanwhile, rebound from troubles to complete race distance
By James Galloway and Mike Wise in Barcelona
Last Updated: 21/02/13 10:48pm
With Thursday representing the Spaniard's final day in the car prior to next week's closing winter test, the former World Champion took the opportunity to put the challenger to the test over a series of shorter runs on the soft tyre in the morning, the best of which saw him clock a time of 1:21.875.
That put Alonso nearly three tenths of a second clear of his nearest challenger, Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg as the German brought his own running for week two to a close with a similar run on Pirelli's yellow-marked tyres prior to the lunchbreak.
Romain Grosjean, taking over the Lotus E21 from Kimi Raikkonen, maintained the team's presence in the top three on the timesheet this week with his own short run on softs - but more significantly for the Enstone team was the fact the Frenchman managed to complete a full race distance in the afternoon.
While troubles on both of Raikkonen's two days in the car may have frustrated the team, Day Three proved relatively plain sailing and across five stints of his race distance Grosjean tried out three of Pirelli's four dry compounds and took his overall lap count up to 119.
For the second successive day, Mercedes also broke the century with Nico Rosberg this time putting 108 laps on the W04 as he took a solid fourth place with a best lap on the medium tyres.
But while the German didn't complete a full race run, notably he did set some consistent times across a 13-lap stint on the medium tyres early into the afternoon.
World Champions Red Bull were threatening to join Lotus in racking up a 66-lap Spanish GP distance with Mark Webber but ultimately fell under ten laps short after a late red flag for Giedo van der Garde's striken Caterham intervened.
With that milestone not quite reached, the basic timesheet therefore showed the RB9 was only the ninth-fastest car on Day Three, yet Webber, whose best lap of 1:23.024 was 1.1s off Alonso's pace, appeared to run around with higher levels of fuel in his car than the front runners and racked up over 100 laps himself.
Day Two pacesetters McLaren were also not a prominent feature on the Thursday timesheet, Jenson Button initially taking longer than most to put a time on the board and then mainly focusing on work with Pirelli's two hardest tyres - his fastest lap time actually coming on the orange hard compound.
The returning Adrian Sutil split the low-key Red Bull and McLaren pair on his first run in an F1 car since November 2011, the German enjoying a solid day in his attempts to convince his old Force India team he is the man to partner Paul di Resta.
The 30-year-old, who originally drove for the Silverstone team for five seasons from 2007, posted a competitive fastest time of 1:22.877 and racked up an error-free 78 laps in what appeared an impressively seamless transition back into the fold.
Williams split their running between Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Botts and between them the pair ensured the Grove team led the day's final lap count on a mammoth 147 - further evidence of the FW35's impressive reliability out of the box.
During his time in the car in the morning, Maldonado tried several front-wing configurations before switching to long runs.
Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne was the fourth driver to clear the 100-lap barrier on his return to the STR8, with Marussia's Max Chilton four tenths of a second quicker than Caterham's Giedo van der Garde at the bottom of the order.
Barcelona Day Three timesheet
1. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:21.875, 97 laps (S)
2. Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, 1:22.160, 91 laps (S)
3. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:22.188, 119 laps (S)
4. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:22.627, 108 laps (M)
5. Pastor Maldonado, Williams, 1:22.675, 79 laps
6. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:22.826, 68 laps
7. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:22.840, 71 laps (H)
8. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:22.877, 78 laps
9. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:23.024, 108 laps (M)
10. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:23.366, 106 laps (M)
11. Max Chilton, Marussia, 1:25.690; 58 laps
12. Giedo van der Garde, Caterham, 1:26.177, 93 laps.