Perez tops penultimate test day
Sergio Perez emerged on top in the qualifying simulations at Barcelona to set the pace on Saturday's penultimate day of testing.
Last Updated: 03/03/12 5:46pm
Sergio Perez signed off from his on-track preparations for the new season by shattering the hitherto benchmark lap time around the Circuit de Catalunya this winter on the penultimate day of pre-season.
The Sauber driver moved to the top of the timesheet amid a frenetic period of activity just before the lunch break as numerous drivers completed qualifying-style runs on Pirelli's softest compound tyres.
But while his nearest rivals at that point of the day all set their best times on the super-soft compound, Perez's quickest lap came on the slightly harder softs - making his 1:22.094 lap all the more commendable.
Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo had come up 0.061s short of that time just minutes before on the red-banded tyres and early in the afternoon was shuffled down to third place by McLaren's Jenson Button, who also used the softs to get within an ace of dislodging Perez.
Before then, Button had spent much of the morning in the garage while McLaren worked to fix a hydraulics problem on the MP4-27.
The Briton was on the track more often in the afternoon but never completed more than six flying laps at a time as McLaren again appeared to make lengthy set-up tweaks before rain showers largely wrote off the final hour of running.
Along with Force India's Paul di Resta, Williams' Bruno Senna and Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen in fifth and sixth and seventh places respectively, Ferrari driver Felipe Massa also used the super-soft tyres to complete his fastest lap - 1:22.413 - although his ultimate fourth-fastest effort was set slightly earlier than the other times.
Meanwhile, Saturday's morning session had got underway with something of a photographer frenzy around the Red Bull garage when, as revealed by Sky Sports F1 on Friday, the world champions rolled out what in effect amounted to a new car which had been flown in from their Milton Keynes factory overnight.
With a completely reworked exhaust configuration the standout revision from the RB8 chassis used so far in testing, the team completed a series of shorter runs to likely understand the impact of the changes on downforce levels.
Mark Webber's best lap on a single flying run on the soft tyres was good enough for eighth - although this was still within a second of the fastest time on an incredibly close timesheet.
Nico Rosberg's ninth-fastest time also came on the soft compound just before lunch, Mercedes recovering from a slightly difficult Friday with Michael Schumacher to once more top a century of laps this winter with tyre degradation work their focus.
Lotus, meanwhile, slipped from the very top of the timesheet to the bottom on Kimi Raikkonen's first outing in the E20 since the second test day at Jerez towards the start of last month.
The former world champion lost much of the morning after feeling uncomfortable with the car's power steering almost immediately, and after a lengthy period in the garage while the team changed the steering rack, the Finn completed some shorter runs with unspectacular results.
The first drops of rain seen at the circuit this winter heading into the final hour of running meant several drivers had to abandon planned race simulations mid-way through, although di Resta and Senna had started theirs early enough to gain some valuable data.
Day three times:
1) Perez Sauber 1:22.094 113 laps
2) Button McLaren 1:22.103 44
2) Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:22.155 131
3) Massa Ferrari 1:22.413 122
4) Di Resta Force India 1:22.446 108 *
5) Senna Williams 1:22.480 111
6) Kovalainen Caterham 1:22.630 64
7) Webber Red Bull 1:22.662 70
8) Rosberg Mercedes 1:22.932 129
10) Raikkonen Lotus 1:25.379 43