Michael Schumacher sets pace during Formula One testing

A raft of new updates overnight propelled Michael Schumacher to the quickest lap in Formula One testing at Barcelona this pre-season.

Schumacher remarked yesterday that he felt his Mercedes was not yet capable of winning grands prix, although admitted to improvements as each test session had passed.

On the penultimate day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya, and with the W02 sporting a new front wing, revised brake ducts and improved bargeboards, Schumacher hit the front in style.

Executing a series of one-lap qualifying runs, Schumacher posted a best of one minute 21.249secs, half a second faster than any other driver over the previous seven test days at the track.

With rain forecast for the final day tomorrow, Schumacher made way late on for Nico Rosberg to sample the revamped car, and he ended up third with a 1:21.788.

Sandwiched in between was Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who finished 0.365secs adrift of seven-times champion Schumacher, and with the Spaniard completing an astonishing 141 laps overall.

Renault continue to look strong, with Nick Heidfeld fourth on the day and just over eight tenths of a second off Schumacher, albeit the German only managing 67 laps due to reliability issues late on.

Williams' Rubens Barrichello also finished within a second of former Ferrari team-mate Schumacher, with Kamui Kobayashi in his Sauber sixth quickest, a fraction over a second down, and Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari seventh.

As for McLaren, it was another troublesome day, with Jenson Button sitting in his garage for a large part of it as the car required an engine change, underlining the lack of reliability so far with the MP4-26.

Button managed just 57 laps, finishing 4.3secs behind Schumacher and 13th of the 14 drivers on show, although unlike many others he did not attempt a low-fuel qualifying run at any stage.

Only Virgin's Jerome D'Ambrosio finished behind the 2009 world champion, with the Belgian six seconds adrift.

Red Bull's final day of testing was a low-key affair, with current world champion Sebastian Vettel down in eighth as he executed an array of short stints, but none of the qualifying variety.

In between Vettel and Button were Team Lotus' Heikki Kovalainen who completed a mammoth 138 laps, followed by Force India duo Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, with Williams' Pastor Maldonado 13th.

Just five teams are on track tomorrow on the final day - McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams and HRT for the first time with their new car, the F111.


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