Fernando Alonso took the wheel of a Ferrari for the first time on Wednesday and continued the Italians’ dominance of Formula One’s first preseason testing session with the week’s fastest time.
The two-time world champion set a fastest morning time of 1 minute, 11.599 seconds from 41 laps of the Cheste circuit, where around 30,000 spectators had gathered for the Spaniard’s first session in the iconic red car.
Pedro De la Rosa of Sauber trailed his Spanish countryman by just under half a second, while Michael Schumacher was third fastest as he begins his comeback with Mercedes GP.
Defending F1 champion Jenson Button was fifth after a slow start in his McLaren.
A single-day record 35,000 fans showed up in Valencia two years ago to see Alonso’s first drive after returning to Renault from McLaren. Alonso, who left Renault at the end of last year to join Ferrari, fizzled in that session but sizzled in the Italian car, which has shown signs of being a lot more competitive than last season. Teammate Felipe Massa led the field over the first two days as the Brazilian showed no effects from the life-threatening crash he survived in July.
Schumacher set a lap of 1:12.438 to improve his best time from Monday by more than half a second. The 41-year-old seven-time F1 champion is returning to the sport for the first time in three years.
Button finished behind Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari as he paused for awhile to make adjustments to his car.
Button won the championship last season driving for Brawn GP, which was bought up by Mercedes.
Nico Hulkenberg of Williams was sixth ahead of Russian driver Vitaly Petrov, who was making his debut in a Renault.