MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari drives during day three of Formula One winter test at the Circuit de Catalunya on February 21, 2013 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso kept the home fans happy with the fastest time in Formula One's pre-season testing at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday.

Alonso lapped the circuit with a best time of one minute 21.875 seconds, the fastest of the week so far, which he set on the soft tyre in the morning before most teams focused on race simulations.

Thursday was the double champion's final day in the F138 car this week, after having his first run in it only on Tuesday, with Felipe Massa due to test on Friday.

Lewis Hamilton's fastest time in qualifying at the circuit in last year's Spanish Grand Prix was 1min21.707 while Alonso, who ended the season runner-up to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, clocked 1min22.302.


Alonso, who will be back in the car for next week's final test in Barcelona, said: "We tried various aerodynamic configurations and for the first time, we made some set-up changes to get a good understanding of tyre behaviour and degradation.

"With every change we made, the car reacted as I expected. Once again this year, the tyres will be one of the crucial aspects to manage: they are softer and quicker, but also less consistent and they degrade rapidly with every lap.

"We will have a lot of work to do to understand how best to balance the car, but that applies to all the teams."

Nico Hulkenberg was second on the test timesheets for Sauber, 0.285sec slower than Alonso, with Romain Grosjean third for Lotus after completing a full race distance on a cloudy afternoon.

McLaren's Jenson Button, whose new team mate Sergio Perez was fastest on Wednesday, ended the penultimate day seventh quickest.


Adrian Sutil, returning to the cockpit for the first time in more than a year with the hope of securing the Force India race seat, did 78 laps with the eighth best time, just ahead of Mark Webber in the Red Bull.

Sutil said he had done all he could to secure a Formula One comeback with Force India on Thursday but felt the team's decision would be about more than just talent.

Stepping back into the cockpit for the first time in more than a year, the 30-year-old German completed 78 laps in testing at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya and clocked the eighth quickest time.

Force India will test Jules Bianchi, Sutil's rival for the last vacant seat on the grid, on Friday and the German hoped a decision would not be long in coming.

"I think it was obvious today that I could show I am still quick and that was very important," he said.

"I don't know who has the better chance. I've done everything I can do to get my comeback and now it's up to them to decide."


The delay in naming a second driver, with Sutil a known quantity after racing for the team for five years up to the end of 2011 and Bianchi the reserve last season, has prompted speculation that the key factor will be commercial.

Sutil said that if it had merely been a question of securing the best driver, the situation would have been resolved before the first test in Jerez at the start of February.

"It can't take long anymore. In three weeks there is a race in Melbourne so it's about time to confirm the drivers," he added.

"For me the most important thing was to deliver a performance here. I have done my part; I can sleep without worries."


The season is due to start in Australia on March 17 but teams do not have to confirm their drivers until the week of the race.

Deputy team principal Bob Fernley said before Sutil began his test session: "We're giving everybody the amount of mileage they need. We'll try and get all the information we've been collecting over to the shareholders this weekend and then it's their decision.

"We want to make sure that it's an even playing field for everybody and that, more importantly, they have got the opportunity to get used to the car. Obviously one of them will come through and we don't want to disadvantage them in any way," he added.

Sutil, convicted of grievous bodily harm in 2012, was dropped by the team at the end of 2011 to make way for Nico Hulkenberg, who has now moved on to Sauber.

The test could be his last chance of a comeback after he was given a suspended 18-month jail sentence and fined €200 000 (R2.35 million) for an incident in a Shanghai nightclub after the Chinese Grand Prix in April 2011.

The incident left Eric Lux, then chief executive of Renault F1 (now Lotus) team owners Genii Capital, needing stitches for a neck wound caused by a champagne glass. - Reuters


1 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari - 1min21.875 (97 laps)

2 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Sauber - 1min22.160 (91)

3 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - 1min22.188 (119)

4 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes - 1min22.611 (108)

5 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams - 1min22.675 (79)

6 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams - 1min22.826 (68)

7 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren - 1min22.840 (71)

8 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India - 1min22.877 (78)

9 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull - 1min23.024 (108)

10 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - 1min23.366 (106)

11 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - 1min25.690 (57)

12 Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham - 1min26.177 (93)