BARCELONA, March 1, 2012 (AFP) - McLaren's Jenson Button emerged quickest in testing on Thursday morning here on the Cirucit de Catalunya at Montmelo.
Previously, Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus, Sauber, Williams, Mercedes and Force India have all regiostwered the best time at some point, but it was now McLaren's turn on day one of the final pre-season test in Barcelona.
The British 2009 Formula One champion completed 27 laps with a fastest time of 1min 23.510sec. This was the opening session of the third and final batch of testing in preparation for the 2012 F1 season which starts in Melbourne on March 18.
After Ferrari, Sauber and Toro Rosso made the early running through Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne, Button took his MP4-27 around the track in 1:23.510 two hours into the session. The McLaren driver, posted his fastest lap on hard tyres.
Sauber, meanwhile, focused "short runs in the morning and some longer ones in the afternoon. No soft tyres planned to be used today" and Perez was P2 as his best effort was +0.310 off Button's pace.
Lotus, who returned to action on Thursday after missing the final three days of the second test due to a problem with their E20-02 chassis, had a solid morning with Romain Grosjean posting a 1:23.959.
The Championship favorites of Red Bull had Mark Webber clocking a 1:23.993 for a 5th best while Ferrari were down in eighth place with Felipe Massa.
Caterham didn't get off to the best of starts in Barcelona as they were forced to replace Heikki Kovalainen at the last minute due to illness. "He's down with a bit of food poisoning which he picked up overnight. Nothing too serious but a day in an F1 car is out!" the team said via Twitter.
Kovalainen, meanwhile, went into too much detail via the social networking website. "Wow what a night not been sick like this for a long time... both ends like no tomorrow! Not sure what I picked up and where but not nice..."
Below the times for the morning session:
|1.||Jenson Button||McLaren MP4-27||1:23.510||27|
|2.||Sergio Perez||Sauber C31||1:23.820||56|
|3.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus E20||1:23.959||36|
|4.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes W03||1:23.992||57|
|5.||Mark Webber||Red Bull RB8||1:23.993||53|
|6.||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso STR7||1:24.216||61|
|7.||Paul di Resta||Force India VJM05||1:24.305||48|
|8.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F2012||1:24.318||45|
|9.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham CT01||1:24.876||67|
|10.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams FW34||1:25.587||37|