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Raikkonen marks return with fastest test session

Updated: February 07, 2012, 16:16

Kimi Raikkonen of Finland drives the new Lotus E20 during Formula One winter testing at the Circuito de Jerez, on Tuesday Feb. 7. 2012, in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. ( AP Photo/Miguel Angel Morenatti )

JEREZ, Spain(AP) Kimi Raikkonen's Formula One comeback with Lotus got off to a perfect start as the former world champion was fastest on the first day of preseason testing on Tuesday.

The Finnish driver and 2007 F1 champion marked his first official ride since the end of 2009 with a fastest lap time of 1 minute, 19.670 seconds at the Jerez circuit for the former Renault team.

"It was a positive first day of testing and everything went almost to plan,'' Raikkonen said. "We had no major issues and I got a good feel for the car and the tires. I'm looking forward to making further progress with the car tomorrow.''

Raikkonen edged Force India's Paul di Resta and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, with constructors' champion Red Bull beginning its campaign with a fourth-place run by Mark Webber, who trailed Raikkonen by more than eight-tenths of a second.

Red Bull's session was delayed due to fog at the airport that kept the team from receiving rear-wing components it needed, but Webber was still pleased as the Austrian team looks to help Sebastian Vettel win a third straight championship.

"It's very early days, but so far so good,'' said Webber, who finished ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso, Michael Schumacher of Mercedes and Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber.

McLaren driver Jenson Button was eighth ahead of Felipe Massa of Ferrari, with the other F1 front-runners off Raikkonen's pace. Button was nearly two seconds behind the Finn, while Massa was more than three seconds behind his former Ferrari teammate.

"It's been a positive day, there are no niggly areas with the car, which is nice,'' Button said at the start of his third season at the helm of McLaren alongside Lewis Hamilton. "Today was just a starting point, and was all about putting miles on the car. There are some promising signs, so I'm happy.''

Schumacher, in the final year of his F1 comeback, was pleased with the evolution of the Pirelli tires, which are marking their second season as F1's official supplier.

"They feel like a step forward, more consistent and comfortable to drive,'' Schumacher said, "and the biggest difference is with the rear tire.''

Spanish outfit HRT ran on the first test day for the first time in its third season on the grid, finishing last behind Heikki Kovalainen of Caterham and Pastor Maldonado, driving the new Williams. Despite HRT using last year's car, the team maintained it was a positive day as the practically rookie technical crew got to terms with the car.

"I want to (emphasize) the work everyone did today because we were all new to the team,'' said Spanish driver Pedro de la Rosa, who returns to the grid in a full-time role. "I think the sensations were positive for everyone.''

Testing continues until Friday at the track in southern Spain.

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