Alonso fastest in F1 testing
Former two-time world champion Fernando Alonso clocked the best time on the third day of pre-season Formula One testing at the Catalunya circuit on Thursday.
The Spaniard had sat out the first four-day session in Jerez earlier in February, but he continued to demonstrate he had lost none of his sharpness over the winter by taking his Ferrari to a best time of 1min 21.875sec off a total of 97 laps.
Nico Hulkenberg, in a Sauber, was second fastest with 1min 22.160sec with French driver Romain Grosjean, in a Lotus, laying down the third best time of 1min 22.188sec off 119 laps.
Alonso, the runner-up to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel last season, improved his time from Tuesday by a second and was just a fraction off the week's best time of 1min 21.848sec set by Sergio Perez in the McLaren on Wednesday.
"The track was a lot colder than yesterday, especially in the morning. That made it more difficult to find the right level of grip," said Alonso.
"Tyre management will be crucial this season; they are softer and faster, but they also degrade a lot faster."
Germany's Adrian Sutil, competing with Frenchman Jules Bianchi for the only drive left this season – with Force India - was eighth fastest.
Sutil, out of the sport for 15 months, improved by a second the best Force India time of the week so far set by Paul di Resta.
"This team knows me well because I spent six years with them," said Sutil.
"I wanted to show them that I am still quick and that was very important. I can sleep peacefully. I have done all I can to get back into F1. I don't know who is the favourite for the drive, it's up to Force India to decide."
The new season opens in Melbourne, Australia on March 17.
1. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Ferrari) 1:22.301
2. Pastor Maldonado (VEN/Williams) 1:22.675
3. Mark Webber (AUS/Red Bull) 1:23.406
4. Romain Grosjean (FRA/Lotus) 1:24.376
5. Jenson Button (GBR/McLaren) 1:24.530
6. Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA/Toro Rosso) 1:25.577
7. Adrian Sutil (GER/Force India) 1:25.936
8. Nico Huelkenberg (GER/Sauber) 1:27.153
9. Giedo van der Garde (NED/Caterham) 1:27.344
10. Max Chilton (GBR/Marussia) 1:35.802
11. Nico Rosberg (GER/Mercedes) 1:37.079