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BARs quickest at Paul Ricard

NEWS STORY
14/04/2005

BAR drivers Takuma Sato and Jenson Button topped the timesheets at Paul Ricard, on the second, and final, day of testing for most of the teams.

Conditions were ideal, with blue skies, bright sunshine, and temperatures reaching 20 degrees C, as the BAR duo ran the new aerodynamic package, which, during testing at least, seems mighty efficient. The only 'downer' on a mostly positive day for the Brackley outfit was that the English driver encountered an (unspecified) engine problem. Nevertheless, Button looks forward to Imola with confidence: "Today was a very good day," he said. "We got through quite a lot and the car has been responding well.

"We mainly focused on long performance runs and tyre testing and the progress we have shown is encouraging. I am very much looking forward to racing in Imola next week."

"It has been a very enjoyable two tests since we came back from Bahrain," added Sato. "We have covered many miles mainly looking at aerodynamic, engine and tyre developments and we seem to have made good progress. Many teams will also improve but we are confident that we have made a good step forward and I'm feeling very positive about the performance of the car. I'm sure we can compete with a very strong race in Imola and am looking forward to the race weekend."

Third quickest, 0.4s off Sato's pace, was Antonio Pizzonia, who to all intents was WilliamsF1's sole runner today, Nick Heidfeld having been sidelined by back pains. The Brazilian carried out a number of long runs as the Grove outfit focuses on tyre compound evaluation.

"This week the main focus of the test was on the tyre compound choice for Imola," said Sam Michael. "Antonio and Nick drove on both days to work through the test program. The program also included setup work, traction control, brake cooling, continued mileage on the engine and evaluation of some new aero parts.

"On the Tuesday of next week, the BMW WilliamsF1 Team will undertake a shakedown test at Silverstone to sign off some electronics changes for the Imola GP," he revealed.

Toyota had testers, Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta on duty, the Frenchman focussing on a new suspension components and the Brazilian running a new diffuser.

"We've had a very good test, putting in a huge amount of laps over the two days," said Panis. "I feel good with the car and it still looks really competitive. I did some work on set-up and dampers and we tried out some different levels of downforce but most of my time was spent working on Michelin tyres for next week's San Marino Grand Prix. Imola is a circuit that is hard for graining, especially when the track is still dirty. Paul Ricard has a similar track surface and the harder tyres we've tried this week seem to work well."

Renault had Giancarlo Fisichella and Franck Montagny on duty. The French outfit's day was spent working on Michelin tyre development ahead of Imola. Both drivers completed a large mileage, and found promising results.

"Today we focused on tyre development for Imola and completed the programme without incident," said Christian Silk. "We have conducted two very productive test sessions since Bahrain, and are feeling optimistic as the fourth race of the season approaches."

The McLaren duo of de la Rosa and Wurz were both almost a second off the pace. The Austrian completed his programme which was concentrating on car set up and Michelin tyre development work for Imola. The former Le Mans winner had a major spin in the morning, however the car was not damaged and after being wheeled back to the garage, he continued with his planned programme.

The Spaniard concentrated on set up work in the morning however, he experienced mechanical problems in the afternoon which resulted in him losing three hours of track time while the team repaired the car. He then went back out on track at approximately 16:00, but suffered an engine failure at 17:15 prematurely ending his programme.

The only other team present was Jordan, Narain Karthikeyan completing the most laps (183).

Due to predicted bad weather on Friday, most of the teams have opted to end their Paul Ricard test early, leaving just McLaren and Jordan on duty on Friday.

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