The penultimate day of testing at the Circuit de Cataluña in Barcelona, Spain, saw the Williams of Pastor Maldonado take its turn at the top of the timesheets, nearly a second faster than the Mercedes of seven-time former World Champion Michael Schumacher. Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi finished third, ahead of the McLaren of Jenson Button and the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne.
Felipe Massa and Ferrari apparently continue to struggle with the F2012; the Brazilian, who took over from team mate Fernando Alonso for Thursday and Friday, was seventh, almost two second off the pace.
Meanwhile, German driver Schumacher continues to impress in Spain. The W03 is clearly handling and driving well and, in the absence of any major reliability issues, could well be considered a race-winning car... if it manages to carry testing pace on to the races.
"I'm very happy with the race simulation that we ran this afternoon," said the German, to Formula1.com, "It confirmed what we have seen from the first tests with our new car, and that we don't seem to have any big issues with reliability. The small things from the last two days I would rate as typical testing issues. So from my side, I am happy with our first full testing session, and we have definitely improved our game which is what we wanted to achieve. To what extent, we can only see later, but I am finishing with a positive feeling."
The Red Bull and Ferrari of Mark Webber and Massa each set the exact same time. However, while Webber ran with unspecified (presumably set-up) test objectives, Massa focused on tyre work.
Testing concludes on Friday.
Unofficial Times from Thursday's session:
1. Pastor Maldonado, Williams - 1:22.391 (106 laps)
2. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes - 1:23.384 (127 laps)