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Alonso quickest at Valencia (with pictures)

NEWS STORY
01/02/2006

Conditions on the second day of testing at Valencia were much improved. Although the track was initially damp due to overnight rain, this gave way to bright sunshine and temperatures reaching 20 degrees. This allowed the fifteen drivers, representing eight teams, to get some serious lappery under their belts following Tuesday's rain hit session.

Topping the timesheets was Fernando Alonso in the Renault R26, fresh from the car's Monaco launch. The Spaniard, cheered on by thousands of local fans, was partnered by Heikki Kovalainen, getting his first taste of the new car.

The French team's opening day at Valencia proved positive, in spite of completing little running in the morning owing to an electrical problem on Alonso's car. The problem proved minor, and was quickly identified by the team and after which Fernando completed a tyre development programme with Michelin during the afternoon. On the other side of the garage, Heikki quickly adapted to the new machine.

"I could feel a really good level of potential in the chassis and engine," said the Finn. "The R26 is a an evolution of last year's car, which was already a good chassis.

"I would say that the R26 is probably more comfortable and more stable, as well as being just as nice to drive," he added. "From my point of view, every day I feel better integrated in the team, and I am ready to work hard on a busy testing programme between now and Bahrain."

"We had a good day today, in spite of the electrical problem this morning," said Alonso. "It was not really serious, and in one sense, it allowed us to wait for the track conditions to improve because the circuit was damp this morning. We spent the afternoon working on tyre development with Michelin, and we were pleased with how the car performed on the tyres."

"This is a demanding circuit for the drivers, and so it's good to see Heikki adapted quickly to the new package," added Christian Silk. "Fernando ran a thorough tyre test that allowed us to work on the chassis set-up, and we looked very competitive on the timesheets, which is always nice. The drivers feel good in the car, and tomorrow we hope to complete more miles, if track conditions allow. The aim will be to complete a race distance with the two cars."

Jenson Button joined the test taking over from Anthony Davidson. He completed an aero evaluation on intermediate tyres in the morning session whilst Rubens Barrichello ran through a series of set-up runs.

With the circuit having dried out by lunchtime, both Rubens and Jenson continued their testing programme with a tyre evaluation.

Button will continue his running tomorrow with Anthony taking over from Barrichello.

Third quickest was Michael Schumacher, at the wheel of the 248, though once again the centre of attention was the other driver in the Ferrari garage, Valentino Rossi.

The German's programme focussed mainly on the development of the 248 F1, completing a number of long runs on the way to posting a best time of, 1:11.831.

Following yesterday's one-lap outing, today Rossi managed 52, outpacing a number of established Formula One stars. There were a couple of spins, as he got used to the V10 powered F2004, but for the most part it was a good performance.

Kimi Raikkonen was a no-show today, the Finn suffering a "heavy cold", consequently, Juan Pablo Montoya was brought in a day earlier than planned.

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