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01 October 2023

Schumacher in form at Jerez testing

Michael Schumacher of Germany and Mercedes GP prepares to drive during day two of Formula One winter testing at the Circuito de Jerez on Wednesday in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. (GETTY)


Seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher set the fastest time in Wednesday's testing in Spain clocking a fastest lap time of 1min 18.561sec in the morning session and completing 132 laps.

The 43-year-old German veteran was half a second faster in his Mercedes than Australian ace Mark Webber in the new Red Bull RB8 with Daniel Ricciardo another half second further back for Toro Rosso.

Frenchman Jules Bianchi also impressed as the Force India reserve driver was fourth-fastest in the new VJM05.

While Schumacher was racing last year's model Webber timed 1:19.184 for the best effort by any of the drivers trying out the new season variant.

Former champion Kimi Raikkonen had been fastest on Tuesday in his Lotus-Renault  but the winner of 18 grands prix, returning to Formula One after two years away, five years on from his title-winning exploits with Ferrari, was less fortunate on Wednesday.

First, the Finn ran wide and could then only manage a best time of 1:20.239 as he turned in 117 laps.

Felipe Massa was only seventh-fastest for Ferrari, just ahead of former champ Jenson Button of McLaren, Massa's 1:20.454 best effort 1.893sec off Schumacher's pace as the majority of the drivers preferred to use the session as get-to-know-you time for the new cars and work on reliability.

Referring to Schumacher, Webber said: "That's a 2011 car and it shows we've still a way to go with the 2012 cars."

Massa said putting the new cars through their paces was "a lot of work" but he insisted that "first impressions are positive, this car has huge potential for progression. It just takes time to construct the complete package so that she is at one and the same time consistent and competitive."

Massa will on Thursday hand over to Spanish stablemate and double world champion Fernando Alonso.