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Raikkonen quickest on final day at Spa

NEWS STORY
12/07/2007

While much of the attention was focussed elsewhere, Kimi Raikkonen posted the fastest time on the final day of testing at Spa Francorchamps.

Once again, heavy overnight rain meant that the session got underway on a damp track. However, conditions improved throughout the day, with no further serious rainfall.

Raikkonen continued the work programme begun on Tuesday, which centred mainly on finding the best set-up for the car and the development of new components.

The Finn completed 69 laps on his way to posting a best time of 1:47.042, though this was almost half-a-second off the best time of the week, posted by Lewis Hamilton on Tuesday.

Having had a difficult day on Wednesday, things were slightly smoother for Robert Kubica today, the only driver who has been on duty for all three days of the Spa test.

The Pole did lose some tracktime in the afternoon as a result of a "technical problem", however, he was able to complete 78 laps over the course of the day as he carried out tyre testing and set-up work for the forthcoming races.

On a day that matters appeared to take a turn for the worse for McLaren - at least in terms of the Stepney Saga - Fernando Alonso raised spirits (slightly) by posting the third best time of the day.

The Spaniard completed over 525kms today as he remained focused on set-up development. The dry track running also enabled the team to run some suspension checks, both specific to the Belgian race and the four Grands Prix building up to the event at Spa. The Mercedes engine that had been used for days one and two of the test, was subject to a planned engine change at lunchtime.

Mark Webber finished fourth quickest in the Red Bull, the Australian taking over from David coulthard, who tested here on Tuesday and Wednesday. Unfortunately, the Australian's return to Spa was not a straightforward one as a close encounter with a white line on dry weather tyres on a damp track saw the Australian spin, resulting in damage to front and rear wings. Once repaired, he was back out again on a dry track until an oil cooler problem robbed the team of the last 50 minutes of track time.

"The weather and a couple of mechanical bothers meant that overall, we did not cover the sort of mileage we had been hoping for over the three days," admitted Chief Test Engineer Ian Morgan. "However, on the positive side, we have learnt a lot about a track we had not visited for a while, we completed our tyre comparison programme, as well as trying Bridgestone's rain tyres and we also signed off some new aero and mechanical components for use at next week's European GP."

Giancarlo Fisichella was in the driving seat for Renault. On the basis of the work done by Nelson Piquet and Heikki Kovalainen earlier in the week the Italian progressed further in the team's development programme. Above all, he was out to find his marks on the new Spa-Francorchamps layout and to refine the car's set-up. As conditions improved, Fisichella was also able to test aerodynamic solutions. Despite the variable track conditions the Italian's day went off without a hitch, and by session's end he had completed 76 laps.

"This was an interesting practice session," said the Italian. "It was important to come here and discover the new layout and pursue the team's development programme. I think we've progressed today and the data recorded is encouraging.

"Personally, I love Spa," he added, "and driving here is always a great pleasure. The car handled really well and I was able to get the best out of it in the variable conditions."

"We finished the test with a good day's work," added Christian Silk. "The track was wet this morning and we waited a little before beginning our programme; after that we had a dry circuit which was a great help. Our three drivers have tested the car over the three days and they all say they're happy with its handling. They found it well balanced, predictable and I think that's very positive.

"This test's been pretty encouraging," he continued. "We were not able to complete our programme because of the weather but we were prepared for this and we got through the main items. We now have a lot of date to analyse to be ready for the European Grand Prix."

Alex Wurz took over from Nico Rosberg, the Austrian completing 75 laps and finishing sixth fastest.

"We continued with our set-up preparation work today, while we also ran through some development items," said Dickie Stanford. "Unfortunately, a small technical problem, combined with more poor weather, prevented us from doing the amount of running we would have liked in the afternoon. Overall, it's been a productive test and the boys have all done a really good job for the team."

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