| Feb 25, 2010

Feb.25 (GMM) WITH A FEW MINUTES to go until the final group test of the 2010 pre-season begins, the early morning skies above Barcelona are sunny and the Spanish tarmac is dry.

The weather should remain good throughout Thursday's running, with similar conditions forecast for Friday.

Day three of the four day test on Saturday, however, could be disrupted by one or two showers, even though the outlook is not as bad as it seemed earlier this week.

Sunday, to mark exactly two weeks until the 2010 world championship begins 5,000 kilometres away in the Kingdom of Bahrain, should be another dry day at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Only USF1 and Campos are missing from the test this week, and the star of the local crowd on Thursday will be Fernando Alonso at the wheel of the Ferrari.

2009 world champion Jenson Button will be in action for McLaren, with the likes of Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton to wait until Friday to begin their final pre-season preparations.


Red Bull Makes Use Of Early Track Time

Feb.25 (GMM) RED BULL MADE an early start to this week's final test of the 2010 pre-season.

The Milton Keynes based team had booked the Circuit de Catalunya one day early, ahead of the group test scheduled between Thursday and Sunday.

Red Bull's exclusive use of the Spanish venue on Wednesday was for private video filming purposes.

But the German language Speed Week, an on-car sponsor of the team, reports that the day was put to good use by Red Bull Racing, with Sebastian Vettel at full speed in the morning before Mark Webber took over the RB6 in the afternoon.

Red Bull's day meant that, after the bad weather of Jerez, the Barcelona group test was unable to be extended by another day.

Continuing on Monday was also ruled out because the Barcelona circuit is booked for use by a junior racing series.

But the weather should be fairly good throughout the four days, with the only major threat of rain looming for Saturday's running.

The Barcelona test will be closely followed by the entire F1 world, with BBC commentator Martin Brundle - who will be in attendance - predicting the pecking order to become clearer this week.

"At some point, every team must be putting in some fast laps," the Briton is quoted as saying by Auto Motor und Sport.

Most teams will also be debuting Bahrain-spec upgrade packages, like Ferrari, who according to Spanish reports will have all-new wings and diffuser.

"I think Ferrari is ahead but lots of teams are close behind, including Williams," said Rubens Barrichello.

Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari said in the Spanish press that Barcelona will be the "most real" test of the pre-season.

A report on Ferrari's website reads: "This will also be the last occasion to test with little fuel loads on board with the new qualifying (format) in sight."


Soucek May Test For Virgin In Spain This Week

Feb.25 (GMM) ANDY SOUCEK COULD make his track debut as Virgin's new 2010 reserve driver this week.

The new British team is the only outfit to have held off naming a definite driver lineup for the last four-day test of the winter, to kick off in Barcelona on Thursday morning.

It is believed Virgin is prepared to give the reigning F2 champion and Spaniard some time at the wheel of the VR-01 this week.

But the team's first priority is to solve the reliability issues that dramatically limited running at Jerez last week.

Virgin has confirmed that "new parts" for the troublesome hydraulic system will be debuted on the car this week.

"We look forward to receiving updated parts for the Barcelona test, which we expect to fully resolve the problem," confirmed technical director Nick Wirth.

Meanwhile, contrary to suggestions that Fairuz Fauzy will not test the T127 this week, Lotus has confirmed that the Malaysian test driver will be in the car on Thursday.

With Jarno Trulli to then drive on Friday and Saturday, it means Heikki Kovalainen will only get one more day of testing prior to Bahrain.