F1

McLaren duo showing good pace

F1 world champion Jenson Button again raised McLaren hopes ahead of the new season with a test-best performance at Jerez.

As team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished last week’s four-day session at the southern Spain venue with the best time on the final day, so Button followed suit at the culmination of this week’s programme.

Executing a series of short runs in the morning, the 30-year-old posted the quickest lap of the eight days of testing overall with a time of one minute and 18.871 seconds.

That proved to be just over four tenths of a second quicker than the previous best set by Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber on Friday, and 0.7secs ahead of Hamilton’s hot lap from last week.

Button finished the day 0.243secs clear of Renault’s Robert Kubica as the Pole concluded the running in the Jerez with the second-best lap over the two weeks.

Kamui Kobayashi and Vitantonio Liuzzi underlined the potential of the Sauber and Force India respectively as they finished third and fourth on the day, 0.317secs and 0.779secs adrift of Button.

Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was fifth, just over a second down, with team principal Ross Brawn happy so far with his team’s progress.

“The past two weeks in Jerez have seen an intensive period of testing for the team,” said Brawn.

“It is very pleasing to have ended the test programme with two days of very valuable dry running for Nico and Michael (Schumacher).

“Although the conditions haven’t been ideal over the two tests, we have been able to make good progress on the set-up of the car and completed a number of our systems evaluations.

“We still have a great deal of work ahead of us in Barcelona next week, but overall we’re looking in good shape for the start of the season.”

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, cheered on by a sizeable local crowd, was sixth in his Ferrari, followed by Jaime Alguersuari for Toro Rosso and then Webber, with Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg ninth.

In the ongoing battle of the new teams, Virgin Racing again had the edge on Lotus Racing in terms of lap time, with Timo Glock a second quicker than Jarno Trulli on his maiden outing in the latter car.

But in terms of reliability, Lotus are comprehensively winning that fight as veteran Trulli managed a test-high for all the drivers with 141 laps.

In contrast, Glock was restricted to just 28 as a hydraulic issue that has dogged the team all week again compromised their running.

The teams conclude testing with a four-day run in Barcelona from Thursday through to Sunday of next week ahead of the opening grand prix in Bahrain on March 14.

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