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Vettel in groove, Massa fastest

2013-02-08 07:51

VETTEL LAPS UP JEREZ: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel put in the laps at Jerez on Thursday but it was Ferrari's Felipe Massa who was fastest. Image: AFP.

ALAN BALDWIN

JEREZ, Spain - Formula 1 World champion Sebastian Vettel shook off the winter rust with his first test of the year on Thursday and Felipe Massa raised the hopes of Ferrari fans with the fastest lap of the week.

Mercedes also put the teething problems of the first two days behind them with 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton's German team mate Nico Rosberg completing a huge 148 laps - 655km in one day.

Vettel, pounding out the laps in the Red Bull for the first time since he won his third consecutive title in Brazil in 2012, was only third-fastest but the times were of secondary importance.

'FELT GOOD OUT THERE'

"It felt good to be out there and back in the car," he said. "The car is working very well... I'm really happy with the car so far. It's good to get back in the car as soon as possible, to get into the groove again, to get used to the tyres.

"It was important to do a lot of laps to get back into the rhythm and get rid of the rust that was on my shoulders from the winter."

That was after 102 laps in the bright Spanish sunshine.

Massa's team mate Fernando Alonso has skipped this first test, preferring to wait until the second in Barcelona on February 19 for his first drive in the new F138 and leaving it to the Brazilian to put on the mileage.

Massa did that, completing more than 1000km over the three days with a best lap time of 1min17.879 on soft-compound Pirellis.

The Brazilian had said two days earlier that Jenson Button's fastest lap of 1min18.861 in a McLaren had been "incredible", given the conditions and hard tyres, but he was clearly happy with his own. "I didn't have the car to do this lap time on the first day and we didn't even try," he said. "I thought the lap was impressive and I'm sure many people are thinking the same about me now.

"For sure we've improved the car. There were some areas where I found improvement in the grip and driving. I think it was a good lap but we have to wait and see exactly what we are going to have at the beginning of the championship."

ROSBERG SECOND-FASTEST

Rosberg was second-fastest on the third day with 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen making his first track appearance of the year in a Lotus and putting in the fourth-fastest. "The E21 feels quite good so far," he said, "even if the balance isn't quite to my liking yet."

He had a clutch problem late in the afternoon  but said: "That didn't stop us going through the programme we wanted to do which had a lot of aero runs in it. We know the car can go faster, we were just running through what we needed to achieve."

Finland's Valtteri Bottas made his first appearance as an F1 driver in the 2012 Williams, run with aerodynamic parts for the new season.

The first race of the 2013 F1 season will be in Australia on March 17.

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