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Mark Webber set the pace on the opening day of the final pre-season test in Barcelona, producing a late flying lap of 1:22.693 on Soft tyres. The Red Bull driver took advantage of drying conditions to lead Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by over one and a half seconds, while Jean-Éric Vergne rounded out the top three.
Overnight rainfall made for a sodden track as the drivers arrived at the gates of the Circuit de Catalunya paddock this morning, with the Intermediate and Wet tyres out in force as the track opened. The biggest talking point of the day followed in the lunch break, when Adrian Sutil was officially announced at Force India for the 2013 campaign. As GPUpdate.net reported on Wednesday afternoon, the German fought off Ferrari protege Jules Bianchi for the vacancy.
After a morning interrupted by Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez's respective off-track excursions, ever-improving afternoon conditions encouraged plenty of action. Felipe Massa initially looked to have the upper-hand on the Intermediates, but he slipped well down the order when his F138 chassis ground to a halt at Campsa, an incident which initiated the third and final red flag phase of the day. When the pit lane reopened for the final ten minutes of track time, Webber took his opportunity to shine.
Second-place man Hamilton racked up plenty of mileage during his penultimate pre-season test day; aside from a half spin at the first corner, the Briton enjoyed a trouble-free run en route to a total of 113 laps. A little further back, Vergne was one of the day's least active drivers, restricting himself to just six timed runs in the Toro Rosso. The Frenchman's late flyer launched him in front of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, who spent a brief spell in charge of proceedings after the break.
Sergio Pérez, who has struggled to get to grips with McLaren's MP4-28 so far this year, was next up after a typically quiet start to the day. The Mexican produced his fastest time during an eight-lap stint on the Intermediate tyres in the afternoon session, finishing directly ahead of compatriot Gutiérrez who recovered to sixth after his early accident.
Di Resta, who finally knows the identity of his team-mate, finished the day in seventh place after some lengthy spells in the Force India garage, while Massa had to settle for eighth following his late afternoon stoppage. Marussia's Max Chilton managed to jump ahead of Caterham driver Charles Pic before the chequered flag came out, leaving Romain Grosjean at the foot of the timing screens after a day of aero runs.
Pre-season testing continues at the Circuit de Catalunya at 9am local time (GMT +1) on Friday and can be followed via the GPUpdate.net Live Report feature
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