McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain takes a curve during an F1 practice session at Catalunya's racetrack in Montmelo, near Barcelona.
McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain takes a curve during an F1 practice session at Catalunya's racetrack in Montmelo, near Barcelona. Reuters

On day three of the F1 pre-season testing at Barcelona, Nico Rosberg's late surge bettered Lewis Hamilton's time by 0.690 seconds, after the German clocked 1m: 23.168. Vitay Petrov was second for Renault, 0.395 seconds ahead of Hamilton.

The performance was encouraging for Hamilton and McLaren, not because of headline times but due to signs showing the improvement in their 2011 car - the MP4-26. It is only at its second test as the team decided to fine-tune the car during the first pre-season test at Valencia.

Though there was a recurrence of the reliability problems that have scorched McLaren, Hamilton set the fastest time before lunch clocking 1m: 28.053.

Hamilton said, We had a couple of technical issues which we were able to sort out. Ninety-odd laps is a good step for us and we managed a couple of long-ish runs in but of course we want to get more mileage on the car - and we'll try and do that on Monday.

Asked about the progress of his rivals Red Bull, Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes, who had all tested their new cars in Valencia and who are theoretically ahead in dealing with problems, he said, It's crazy. All I can do is laugh because it's incredible, they are really doing fantastic and we've not managed to get to that many laps but slowly and surely we will.

About the new Pirelli tyres, designed to degrade quicker than last year's Bridgestones, he said, It's difficult to know how much is car and how much of it is tyres but tyres are very difficult to use this year. When you come here it's even more hardcore than it was in the last test than we had.

Even last year when we had heavy fuel you had to drive it a bit easier on heavy fuel in the race to preserve the tyres. Today I probably drove a bit easier on the first long run but the tyres just go away so fast and there's nothing you can do about it.

The second run I tried to look after it even more and it was like driving an out lap it was just very slow and not particularly exciting. It lasted a little bit longer but it didn't feel like I was racing the car.

Elsewhere, Ferrari's Massa had a disappointing day after two ventures off-the-track inside an hour. He first went into the gravel and not long thereafter slid onto the grass. However, Ferrari eased off on their driver's errors saying the conditions were to blame, which at the time was damp.

The 2011 Ferrari car, the F150, seems to be tough after the team later said, Fortunately, the Ferrari F150th Italia appears to be very tough and after both incidents it was able to run again without losing too much time.

Red Bull's Mark Webber came through with an impressive 139 laps, clocking 5th in lap-times with 1:24.995.

Lap-times on Day Three -

Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:23.168 seconds
Vitaly Petrov (Renault) 1:23.463
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) 1:23.858
Pastor Maldonado (Williams-Cosworth)1:24.815
Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault) 1:24.995
Jarno Trulli (Lotus-Renault) 1:25.454
Sergio Perez (Sauber-Ferrari) 1:25.557
Adrian Sutil (Force India-Mercedes) 1:25.720
Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) 1:26.155
Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 1:26.508
Timo Glock (Virgin-Cosworth) 1:26.598
Giorgio Mondini (Hispania-Cosworth) 1:28.178
Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) 1:28.329
Narain Karthikeyan (Hispania-Cosworth) 1:30.772