Jerez, Spain – Two-time defending Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel returned to the track for the first time in two months on the third day of preseason testing at Jerez.
Vettel spent time getting familiar with Red Bull's 2012 car, the RB8. The 24- year-old German completed a total of 96 laps around the Spanish circuit, posting the third quickest time at one minute, 19.297 seconds.
"It's been two months since we were in the car, so it does take a couple of laps to get back in the rhythm, but the car feels fine as we expected," Vettel said. "There's quite a loss of grip due to the regulation changes, but you get used to it quickly and then start to explore how the new car feels. So far, we can be happy. We had a couple of issues, but it's normal when the car is new."
Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, drove the car during the first two days of testing at Jerez. Vettel will be behind the wheel on Friday's final test day.
Nico Rosberg from Mercedes set the pace on day three with a lap at 1:17.613. Mercedes has used its 2011 car, the MGP W02, at Jerez. The team, with drivers Michael Schumacher and Rosberg, has been gathering information from the test that will be applied to its 2012 car, the F1 W03, which will makes its debut in more preseason testing later this month in Barcelona, Spain.
"I'm happy with the testing that we have achieved here in Jerez, and we learned a lot about the Pirelli tires and a few other things for the new car," Rosberg said. "It seems that the tires are closer performance-wise this year, with the rear tires also looking a bit stronger. Pirelli has done a good job so far. You can't really compare the lap times with other teams, but it was interesting to learn a lot with our 2011 car. Now I'm really looking forward to the two Barcelona tests with our new Silver Arrow."
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean had the fastest lap among teams testing their 2012 cars. Grosjean turned a lap at 1:18.419.
Lewis Hamilton from McLaren was fourth quickest (1:19.464), followed by Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez from Sauber.
Force India has its session cut short in the morning when reserve driver Jules Bianchi crashed. Bianchi completed just two laps before spinning off into the gravel and making contact with the tire wall.