BARCELONA, March 1, 2012 (AFP) - Lotus-Renault's French driver Romain Grosjean posted the fastest lap on the first day of final testing ahead of the start of the new Formula One season here on Thursday.
Grosjean clocked a best time of 1min 23.252 to head the standings at the Circuit de Catalunya at Montmelo, north of Barcelona.
This represented a welcome upturn in fortunes for his team who were forced to skip the first week of testing last month because of a problem with the car's chassis.
"We lost some days last week, now we have to work twice as hard to get back those days and hopefully the car is good straight from the beginning," said Grosjean.
The French driver bettered the time set by McLaren's Jenson Button in the opening session of 1min 23.510 in the final quarter of an hour having completed 73 laps.
McClaren team manager David Redding said: "Having completed more than 2000km at Barcelona last week, today was always going to be more about quality than quantity.
"We wanted to drill a little deeper into our understanding of the car, and that meant undertaking some bigger set-up changes that wouldn't ordinarily be available to us during a grand prix weekend."
World champions Red Bull were fourth fastest with Mark Webber behind the wheel.
"We're here at the last test now, it's starting to build up for the first race and we're pretty excited for that. However, we still have plenty to go through this week but so far so good," said the Australian.
"We certainly have a few more boxes to tick. We have some crucial data to gather this week and the next three days will be really important. We're learning every run and we are making progress I think."
Ferrari had a low-key session, Felipe Massa coming in eighth as the team get to grips with their new car.
Two of the 12 F1 teams - HRT and Marussia, who raced as Virgin last year - were absent again. HRT are hoping to have their car ready for a run out on the final day's testing on Sunday, while Marussia will not be able to test at all after failing a mandatory crash test.
This is the third and final batch of testing before the 2012 F1 campaign starts in Melbourne on March 18.
Below the best times for today's session:
|1.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus E20||1:23.252||73|
|2.||Jenson Button||McLaren MP4-27||1:23.510||64|
|3.||Sergio Perez||Sauber C31||1:23.820||118|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull RB8||1:23.830||102|
|5.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes W03||1:23.992||128|
|6.||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso STR7||1:24.216||113|
|7.||Paul di Resta||Force India VJM05||1:24.305||98|
|8.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F2012||1:24.318||105|
|9.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham CT01||1:24.876||123|
|10.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams FW34||1:25.587||58|