Perez and McLaren on top at Catalunya

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By Alan Baldwin

New McLaren driver Sergio Perez set the fastest lap on the second day of Formula One testing at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on Wednesday.

The Mexican, who has moved from Sauber to replace 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton at the team, completed 97 laps - nearly one-and-a-half times the Spanish Grand Prix race distance - with a best time of one minute 21.848 seconds on the soft tyres.

Perez did a series of shorter runs in the morning and then longer ones in the afternoon, focusing on getting used to systems and procedures including the cockpit switches and radio messaging.

RED BULL RELIABILITY ISSUES

Red Bull's triple world champion Sebastian Vettel had been the fastest before lunch, although testing times must be treated with caution since teams are working through different programmes, but was forced to end his session early.

“We had some issues with reliability today and we couldn't do as many laps as we wanted,” said the German, who was still second fastest overall on 1min22.197 and did 84 laps.

“It was nothing disastrous, just small things that hampered us today.”

The team's race engineering coordinator Andy Damerum said the problems would be resolved by the start of Thursday's session with Australian Mark Webber.

“The stops we had today weren't too serious; we know where the issues are,” he added.

LOTUS GEARBOX PROBLEMS

Kimi Raikkonen was third on the timesheets for Lotus on 1min22.697 although the 2007 champion was sidelined for much of the morning and part of the afternoon by a gearbox problem.

Whilst the team ultimately diagnosed and rectified the issue, vital running time was lost. Once Raikkonen did get out on track, he immediately set the third fastest lap time, which is where he ended the day.

“If yesterday wasn’t an ideal day then today was more of the same,” Raikkonen said. “Fortunately, once we were able to get a lap in we could see that the car has good pace. We test to find any problems so in that respect we’re doing a good job, but it’s frustrating. It’s no secret that we want to get more laps on the board and that’s the target for the rest of this test and the final sessions next week.”

HAMILTON’S MARATHON

Hamilton, now with Mercedes, was fourth fastest in 1min22.726 after completing a whopping 121 laps - the most of any driver - with his best lap set on the hard tyres in the morning.

“We had a good day and it was nice to get so many laps in,” he said. “We're making continual steps forward in terms of our understanding of the set-up and the tyres.

“The guys are working really hard both here and at the factory and it's encouraging to see the amount of work that's being put in. We're focusing on our own programme and just getting on with it.”

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest.

The second test of the pre-season will end on Friday., and the first race will be in Australia on March 17. - Reuters

TIMES

1 Sergio Perez (Mexico) McLaren - 1min 21.848sec (97 laps)

2 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull - 1min22.197 (84)

3 Kimi Räikkonen (Finland) Lotus - 1min22.697 (43)

4 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes - 1min22.726 (121)

5 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari - 1min23.247 (76)

6 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams) - 1min23.561 (98)

7 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso - 1mon23.718 (70)

8 Paul di Resta (Britain) Force India - 1min23.971 (62)

9 Nico Hülkenberg (Germany) Sauber - 1min24.205 (88)

10 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - 1min25.115 (66)

11 Charles Pic (France) Caterham - 1min26.243 (102)

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