Jenson Button bounces back from early setback to set Day One pace at Jerez test
McLaren recover from fuel-pump woe, but electrics short circuit Mercs
By James Galloway and Mike Wise at Jerez. Last Updated: 05/02/13 7:09pm
Jenson Button and McLaren recovered from an inauspicious start to life with their new MP4-28 to end Day One on top of the timesheet at the Jerez test, as F1 2013 burst into dramatic life.
The Briton, kicking off the Woking outfit's new era in his new role as their de facto team leader, jumped ahead of Mark Webber in the new Red Bull RB9 inside the final 15 minutes of the first day of winter testing with an impressive lap of 1:18.861 that was over eight tenths of a second quicker than McLaren's rivals.
It marked an impressive Day One turnaround in fortunes for the Woking team after they had seen their new challenger grind to a halt just three laps into its maiden track bow on account of a fuel-pump failure.
With the MP4-28 returning to the pits on the back of a truck even before it had set its first timed lap, McLaren effectively lost the whole first morning's track work as their engineers first traced the problem and then replaced the failed part. Indeed, the irony was not lost on a rueful Martin Whitmarsh later in the day when he confirmed that the failed part had actually been a brand new design which was intended to ensure there was no repeat of the same failure that cost Hamilton a certain victory in Abu Dhabi.
However, once repaired, Button returned to the circuit in the afternoon and steadily worked his way up to third on the timesheet before a late show of speed conclusively saw him end the first official day of winter on top.
"I had a good feeling with the car, I felt at home immediately," Button told Sky Sports News afterwards. "It feels very similar to what I have felt in the simulator which is great because it means when we develop the car we can develop it from the simulator."
Although he isn't driving until Wednesday, McLaren's former star Lewis Hamilton was at Jerez to run the rule over his new Mercedes' team's progress, and while he may have felt he had seen it all before when his old team's challenger broke down, he soon saw his new employers run into more terminal dramas of their own.
Less than an hour after Button had ground to a halt, Nico Rosberg's W04 was the next car winched onto the back of a recovery truck after an electrical fire caused a small fire to emanate from the back of the car.
Although the German had at least managed to put 14 laps on the board by then, he would complete no more on Tuesday as Mercedes later confirmed that they needed for replacement parts to arrive overnight.
It was therefore not the start to their self-proclaimed new era that Mercedes would have hoped for, although the initial tests are the place to iron out the inevitable teething problems on new cars.
Last season's top two championship finishers, Red Bull and Ferrari, will however no doubt warmly accept trouble-free starts with their respective drivers Webber and Felipe Massa racking up encouraging 64 and 73 lap totals.
Afterwards, confirming the impression of a positive first day at Ferrari, Massa described the F138 as being on a "completely different planet" compared to the underwhelming F2012.
As was the case this time last year, Lotus also got off to a good start with their latest challenger and Romain Grosjean, as the first man to break into the 1:19s, was the afternoon's long-time leader before Webber and then Button intervened.
"It's difficult to compare, but I would say it's a step forward," Grosjean later reported of his E21.
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With the top three covered by less than second, Paul di Resta wound up fourth for Force India after an encouraging start of his own - the team enjoying strong opening reliability as the Scot clocked up the most laps of all (89).
Di Resta ended up marginally ahead on the timesheet of Daniel Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso, Massa sixth and 1.6s off the late strong pace shown by Button.
With Sauber debutant Nico Hulkenberg, Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado, in the 2012 Williams, next in line, F1 new boys Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) and Max Chilton (Marussia) took up their respective team's usual position at the foot of the order.
Chilton finished 5.3s off the pace on his first official day as a full F1 driver after what had been an encouraging start went awry on his 29th lap when he went off into the gravel and bent the newly-launched MR02's rear suspension.
Jerez Test Day One Timesheet
1. Button, McLaren, 1:18.861, 37 laps
2. Webber, Red Bull, 1:19.709, 73 laps
3. Grosjean, Lotus, 1:19.796, 54 laps
4. Di Resta, Force India, 1.20.343, 89 laps
5. Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, 1:20.401, 70 laps
6. Massa, Ferrari, 1:20.536, 64 laps
7. Hulkenberg, Sauber, 1:20.699, 79 laps
8. Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:20.846, 14 laps
9. Maldonado, Williams*, 1:20.864, 84 laps
10. Van der Garde, Caterham, 1:21.915, 64 laps
11, Chilton, Marussia, 1:24.176, 29 laps.