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Hamilton quickest on day one at Paul Ricard

NEWS STORY
15/05/2007

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets on the first day of testing at Paul Ricard today, giving further hope to those who believe the World Championship leader can score his first ever Grand Prix win next week at Monaco, where he has already stood atop the podium following wins in F3 and GP2.

Conditions were perfect for much of the day, but at times gusting winds caused problems.

With the next race around the streets of Monte Carlo, it was time for the teams to sample the 'super soft' Bridgestone tyres not used thus far this season. Monaco will see the soft tyre selected as the 'prime' and the super soft as the 'option'. The early part of this week's test, therefore, has most of the teams working on tyre evaluation with the super soft likely to be used in Monaco qualifying, where grid position is all-important due to the added difficulty of overtaking around the street track's tight confines.

The Woking team's test began with a focus on set-up work and tyre evaluation for the Monaco Grand Prix on the 2.232 mile 2D SC (short) configuration. Alongside this, Lewis and the test team spent time on the mechanical development of the MP4-22.

Second quickest, albeit 1.22s off the pace, was Ralf Schumacher, who retired from last Sunday's race at Barcelona. The German enjoyed a trouble-free day as he got to grips with the new compound.

"The main focus of my test is to concentrate on detail work for Monte Carlo," said Schumacher. "The car was quite 'oversteery' early in the day and that wasn't helped by the strong gusting winds that, at one point, were moving me over a couple of metres on the main straight. You sometimes get that on a motorway overtaking a lorry on a windy day but it's not a nice feeling at 200mph! People talk about the strong Mistral wind in this part of the world and I certainly experienced it today. Sometimes the wind was so strong that you barely got top gear on the straight but when conditions were calmer we had a productive day, trying a number of set-ups as well as evaluating the super soft and soft tyres for Monaco."

"We had a good day with no reliability issues and got through our programme," revealed test team manager, Gerd Pfeiffer. "Ralf was happier with the set-up later in the day and it has provided a good base for what is an important test. With Monaco coming up we have also been running the super soft and soft Bridgestone tyres. We have a busy schedule to get through, which Ralf will continue tomorrow while Franck Montagny takes over on Thursday and Friday."

Nelson Piquet completed his programme for Renault without any problems. The Brazilian concentrated on preparing for the race in Monaco, and continued to make progress with its planned development programme.

"I am pleased to be driving an F1 car here," said the Brazilian. "I know the circuit well from GP2, and it was interesting to see how it looked from the cockpit of the R27. I ran a lot today, just like in Barcelona last time out, and that's always a good thing. I think we made good progress, it was a positive, encouraging day for the rest of the week."

"We made good progress, without any problems at all," added Christian silk, "and Nelsinho did exactly the job we wanted from him, without any mistakes at all. We worked on the electronic systems, and traction control development; the results were interesting. We will continue preparations for Monaco tomorrow with Heikki."

Red Bull continues to make good progress, and with teammate David Coulthard scoring points at Barcelona last weekend, Mark Webber will be keen to open his account at Monaco next week. Fourth best time today, appears to indicate that the Australian could be on target. His Scottish teammate takes over tomorrow.

Fifth quickest was Nico Rosberg in the Williams, the British team also showing signs of improvement last weekend.

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