The 2012 Formula 1 World Championship is just about a fortnight away, and teams up and down the grid are busy gathering as much testing and tyre data as they possibly can, ahead of what promises to be a very interesting season.
Given Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel's recent dominance of the sport (not unlike Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari in the early 2000s), it would take a brave man to bet against the young German continuing to claim the top step of the podium.
Nevertheless, Red Bull's pre-season testing times have been surprisingly off the pace, relative to the kind of gap they had over the opposition last year. It is important, however, to remember that these are test sessions and therefore not necessarily accurate indications of the actual race speed of each car.
Ten teams were on track for the first day of the final pre-season test at the Circuit de Cataluña, in Barcelona, Spain. The fastest driver of the day seemed to be McLaren's Jenson Button, whose time of 1:23.510, set in the morning, was fastest for much of the session. Button was pipped at the post though, with the Lotus of Romain Grosjean lapping in 1:23.252 late in the day.
Sauber's Sergio Perez was third, with Red Bull's Mark Webber, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne next.
Ferrari have had, by the looks of their times, a disappointing pre-season, with former World Champion Fernando Alonso conceding his team needs to improve. However, the Spaniard remains upbeat about his chances, insisting the team was learning from each session. His team mate, Felipe Massa was behind the wheel of the F2012 on Thursday but could only manage eighth position, with a best of 1:24.318.
Testing continues on Friday.
Unofficial Times from Thursday's Session:
1. Romain Grosjean, Lotus - 1:23.252 (73 laps)
2. Jenson Button, McLaren - 1:23. 510 (64 laps)
3. Sergio Perez, Sauber - 1:23.820 (118 laps)
4. Mark Webber, Red Bull - 1:23.830 (102 laps)
5. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes - 1:23. 992 (128 laps)
6. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso - 1:24. 216 (113 laps)
7. Paul di Resta, Force India - 1:24. 305 (98 laps)
8. Felipe Massa, Ferrari - 1:24.318 (105 laps)
9. Vitaly Petrov, Caterham - 1:24.876 (123 laps)
10. Pastor Maldonado, Williams - 1:25.567 (58 laps)
Start the slideshow to see all the action from the Circuit de Cataluña...