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While it was Sebastien Buemi who topped the timesheets it was Mark Webber (above) who stole the headlines, the Australian making a successful return to the F1 cockpit following his cycling accident last November.
The Faenza-based outfit, once again using the 2008 car, went through a simulation programme of a Grand Prix qualifying session and a race today, including refuelling and safety car procedures. It was useful practice for the team and a new experience for Buemi. Other work included an evaluation of the rear suspension and testing of three Bridgestone tyre types, super-soft, soft and medium.
"This has been a useful couple of days for me," said Buemi, "running in wet and dry conditions. Even though we are still in the '08 car, I have learned a lot in terms of how we operate over a race weekend, as we simulated a qualifying session and the race. It was good preparation and now, all we need is our new car."
Tomorrow, Sebastien Bourdais takes over driving duties for the Italian team.
At McLaren, where Heikki Kovalainen continued, today was a continuation of yesterday's programme, focusing on car set-up and putting miles on the MP4-24's KERS device. The fine weather meant the Finn was able to rack up 110 laps throughout the day, including several longer runs as both the team and driver became more comfortable with the car's balance.
Without a high-downforce 2009-spec rear wing, the team opted to run with a modified 2008 rear wing. According to the team, the KERS programme ran smoothly throughout the day. Lewis Hamilton takes over tomorrow.
Though Sebastien Vettel was on stand-by in case Mark Webber decided not to overwork his injured leg, the German had nothing to do as the Australian comfortably reeled off 83 laps. This was Webber's first taste of the new car and his first day on track since last year's Brazilian Grand Prix.
"There were a lot of questions going into today and I answered them," said the Australian. "From my point of view, it all went better than expected and to do over a race distance on my first day back in the cockpit, with several weeks to go to Melbourne is a good thing."
It was also a good day on the technical front as the RB5 ran 100% reliably, with the team working through every point on its to-do list. With the programme running to plan, the team was able to move on from a basic assessment of the new car, to working on aerodynamics and general set-up. Sebastien Bourdais returns to the cockpit tomorrow.
Kazuki Nakajima was on duty for Williams, the Japanese driver completing the second highest number of laps today (125).
"Kazuki covered over 550kms while undertaking mechanical set-up tests," said sam Michael. "He also completed a full race simulation without issue. We are looking forward to another productive day tomorrow when we will carry out more tuning work on the FW31."
It was another low key day for Renault as the team examined new development items and continued with the on-track development of its KERS technology. Despite losing some track time in the middle of the day, Nelson Piquet completed a total of 49 laps. Fernando Alonso is back in action tomorrow as he takes over the R29 for the reminder of the week.
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