Mark Webber shrugged off the doubters on Wednesday by reeling off more than a full grand prix distance despite still carrying the scars of his broken right leg and recent surgery.

Mark Webber shrugged off the doubters on Wednesday by reeling off more than a full grand prix distance despite still carrying the scars of his broken right leg and recent surgery.

The Australian driver, originally scheduled to hand the new RB5 back to Sebastian Vettel after a brief morning shakedown, ultimately lapped the Jerez test circuit 83 times, leading those cars fully complying with this year's new technical regulations.

Only Sebastien Buemi, in the 2008 Toro Rosso, and McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen, whose MP4-24 featured last year's rear wing, were quicker than Webber, who broke both bones in his right leg in a cycling accident last November.

A statement issued by Red Bull, whose 2009 car also ran reliably throughout the day, confirmed that Webber's return to the cockpit was completed "comfortably", although Australian reports said his test was aided by painkillers.

"I wasn't going in pessimistically, but F1 cars can be quite ferocious," the 32-year-old told the Australian news agency AAP.

"I'm very relieved of course.

"From my point of view, it all went better than expected and to do over a race distance on my first day back in the cockpit, with several weeks to go to Melbourne, is a good thing," Webber added.

Also in 2009 cars, Williams' Kazuki Nakajima and Nelson Piquet, in the problematic Renault R29, rounded out the times, with Renault explaining that the limited day's work of 49 laps was because of "some small reliability issues".

Over in Bahrain, Ferrari, BMW-Sauber and Toyota waited all day for a sandstorm to clear, but did not add to their morning tallies of just a handful of laps apiece.

"We have six more days here and we remain confident that we will reap the rewards of better conditions during the rest of the test," said Toyota's chief engineer Dieter Gass.

 

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