Jenson Button and McLaren were overshadowed in Valencia today when Ferrari rounded off their complete domination of the opening Formula One test session by being fastest on the third and final day.
A crowd of 36,400 — more than attended the 2009 Turkish grand prix — gave their noisy support as Fernando Alonso celebrated his first appearance in a Ferrari by being convincingly quicker than anyone else and following the trend set by Felipe Massa on Monday and Tuesday.
Much of Button’s first morning with the McLaren-Mercedes was spent in the garage as the 2009 world champion was made comfortable in the car after it had been driven by Lewis Hamilton on Tuesday. Button’s relative lack of running meant he was more than half a second slower than the 2008 champion.
Button made the valid point that these are early days in a month of pre-season testing and teams are experimenting with different fuel loads now that refuelling has been banned in the races, starting with the opening grand prix in Bahrain on 14 March. “I think you can say that Ferrari are fast, but we don’t know how fast,” Button said.
“You never know what fuel they are running when they do that time. Their slower runs, which I’m guessing were using a lot higher fuel, were still reasonably good, so I guess they are fast,” he added.
“But this is the wrong place for us to be thinking about who is quick and who isn’t. With the difference in fuel loads it is difficult to read into it. At the moment it is important for us to put our blinkers on and work with our car and improve it.”
“This afternoon we were able to do some laps, but then it was about me getting used to all the systems in the car and working with my engineer.”
Alonso, meanwhile, played down Ferrari’s early pace after the double world champion’s first run for the Italian team following his move from Renault. “No, I don’t think I would say I’m favourite to win the first race],” Alonso said.
“It was my first time in a Ferrari, so a very emotional day. For me the priority was getting completely comfortable. But the support of the fans was great, and the feeling, atmosphere, passion of everybody within Ferrari is unbelievable.
“Of course, expectations are always high, and this year being with Ferrari, people will expect a lot from us. But there is nothing we can do, other than our maximum, to try to be competitive, ­professional and quick.”
Earlier in the day, Ross Brawn had hinted that the handling and balance of the new car was not as expected but the Mercedes technical chief was confident the problem could be corrected in time for next week’s test at Jerez.