McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen set a blistering pace at Valencia today. The Finn, at the wheel of the new MP4-20, posted the fastest time of the year at the Spanish track, and only 0.005s off his own unofficial lap record. This of course makes a bit of a mockery of the fact that the new regulations were supposedly going to considerably slow the cars.
That said, the Finn was running on fumes, indeed he never completed his next lap, having run out of fuel, however, it surely proves that as the season progresses the cars will probably running near enough the same pace as in 2004.
"Today I completed 117 laps of the circuit," said Kimi. "There were no problems, and it was a very productive day's running."
Kimi was joined by Wednesday's pacesetter, Alexander Wurz, who continued with the MP4-19B. The Austrian was second quickest, edged out of the top spot by 0.170s.
Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher were both at the wheels of TF105s. The Italian was third quickest, 1.193s off Raikkonen's pace, but it is believed that he too was running on low fuel. His German teammate completed just 47 laps, and took his customary place - as far as this year's tests are concerned - at the bottom of the timesheets.
The Renaults weren't as fast as yesterday, but then we all know that it's what happens at Melbourne and beyond that matters not test times. Nonetheless, Fernando Alonso was fourth quickest, outpacing his Italian teammate by 0.201s.
The team had planned to conduct race simulation work today, but a high number of red flags, combined with a mechanical failure on Fisichella's car during his simulation, meant that plans were changed. Both drivers thus worked on an experimental comparative set-up programme, exploring their team-mate's set-up solutions, and both found some interesting directions in which to work at the upcoming tests in order to optimise the performance of the R25. Tyre testing also continued ahead of the opening races of the season.
"We made more good progress this week with the set-up of the car, and today's comparative programme allowed us to make further advances in our understanding of the R25," said chief test engineer, Christian Silk. "Overall, we are very pleased with the car's performance: we know that it is sound and quite competitive. We are still experiencing some problems, but that is normal at this stage of the season and we will begin testing solutions next week in Jerez."
BAR's Takuma Sato completed a staggering 146 laps. The Honda didn't miss a beat, though the Japanese driver admitted to finding it difficult to adapt to Michelin's latest compounds. Teammate Jenson Button, now recovered from the neck spasms that affected last week's test, was eleventh quickest, over 2.5s off the pace.
Nick Heidfeld was the quicker of the two WilliamsF1 drivers on duty. The German continued with set-ups, aerodynamic evaluations and tyre testing, while Mark Webber carried out a race simulation.
"We've put considerable mileage on the FW27 on our penultimate day at Valencia," said test team manager, Tim Newton. "Mark spent the morning completing longer runs while carrying out systems checks, but his progress was sporadically interrupted by red flags.
"Nick suffered from technical problems which delayed his morning running but managed to catch up in the afternoon."
Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello were on duty for Ferrari, the former at the wheel of an F2004 and the latter driving an F2004 M. The German continued with development work on Bridgestone tyres, begun yesterday by Gene, while the Brazilian continued with fine tuning of the F2004 M and also work on the electronic settings.
The World Champion was the cause of two red flags, one of them due to an engine problem and the other due to an unspecified technical fault.
Conditions at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valencia Ricardo Tormo were ideal, with bright sunshine and temperatures of up to 18 degrees.