Renault and Honda set Barcelona pace


The final day of the penultimate 2006 pre-season test, saw further proof, in the absence of McLaren, that Renault and Honda are the main pace-setters.

Fernando Alonso posted the fastest time of the day, with his teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella, third quickest, but the Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Anthony Davidson were second and fifth, in addition to completing more than 100 laps apiece.

Fernando Alonso spent part of the morning working on pit-stop practice. Tyre changes, refuelling and wing changes were all part of the drills that were run through to prepare for Bahrain. After a dozen successful pit-stops, the Spaniard then conducted a qualifying simulation to give the team a first taste of this new challenge for 2006, both in terms of time management and the strategies for managing it.

Giancarlo Fisichella followed an identical programme to his team-mate, with a dozen pit-stops followed by a qualifying simulation during the afternoon.

"We have had an important and productive week," said the Spaniard. "We made good progress for the first race, and now I want to see how we will perform in race conditions against the competition. I am feeling confident, the car is performing well and the team is more motivated than ever.

"I am pleased with my week," added his teammate. "I feel like we have worked well, and made good progress with the car. We have been quick, and I am pleased with my lap-times this week. I now want to go racing again, and start the championship."

""This was a very important week in terms of the results we obtained," admitted Christian silk. "Once again, the cars ran extremely well without any major technical incidents, and the drivers are pleased with the car's performance. The entire race team was present today for pit-stop practice, which was an important step and went without a hitch. There are two more days of testing at Valencia next week, and then we will have the opportunity to see exactly what we are capable of in race conditions."

Anthony Davidson took over from Jenson Button for the final day. The Englishman spent his early runs finding a good balance in the car before completing a tyre evaluation over long runs, completing an impressive 129
laps today.

Barrichello once again focussed on chassis set-up alongside an aero evaluation. He completed 107 laps setting the second fastest time of the day.

"It's been a good day today and my first chance to drive round the Barcelona circuit this year," said Davidson. "I concentrated on long tyre runs this morning and completed the work on some set-up evaluations throughout the day. The evident improvements that we've found are encouraging and we have certainly come a long way since I drove the Concept car here back in December which is a great achievement by everyone at the team.

"The pace of the car gives me confidence that we are looking strong for the first races," he added. "We have one final test in Valencia next week to complete the preparations before heading off to Bahrain."

At one stage Christian Klien topped the timesheets, posting a 1:14.613, however, the general consensus of opinion in the paddock was that this was one of the old-fashioned winter testing specials, designed to give the team a much-needed morale boost. Our spies tell us that there remains a certain amount of despondency within the team, despite signs of an improvement during this week's test.

Klien started his day with some set up work before carrying out a simulation of the new one hour qualifying procedure. Next came a run through of all the pre-race procedures that take place on the grid and then a race simulation. Unfortunately, an engine problem brought this to an early close after a handful of laps.

David Coulthard woke up with a trapped nerve in his back. After some physio work the Scotsman went out for an exploratory run, but after just four laps, the pain meant he was forced to call it a day. Robert Doornbos arrived late in the day and took over Coulthard's car to practice pit stops.

Nico Rosberg was the quicker of the two WilliamsF1 drivers on duty, and the quickest of the Bridgestone runners.

"Today Nico worked on tyre testing for Bridgestone," said Sam Michael, "focusing on their different compounds. Meanwhile, Alex (Wurz) concentrated on long runs to investigate various mechanical set-ups and brake cooling.

"We also tested some new aerodynamic parts for the FW28 this week and confirmed they are all working as expected."

Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli both had a "productive day", according to Toyota's end-of-session media release, which failed to mention another day of spins for the German, who has caused more red flags this week than anyone else.

"These three days of testing have turned out to be constructive," said the German, "especially in regards to the weather, because we expected high chances of rain. I am glad that the weather held out because I was able to finally put in some meaningful runs.

"Although I could only put in 41 laps today, my impressions have all been positive, particularly with the potential of the car and the team as a whole. We have one more test next week to make any final conclusions and then it is off to the races."

"This week we mainly worked on the tyre choice for Bahrain," said Jarno Trulli, who finished seventh quickest. "We worked on long and short runs, but the temperature has been too cold for us. I am sure that a warmer temperature will ensure that we are more competitive. The new aerodynamic package has been a good step forward. All in all we have done a lot work, but of course we will find out in Bahrain how we stand up against the other teams."

"We have been fortunate here with the weather conditions, as we were actually expecting rain," said Pascal Vasselon, General Manager Car Design and Development, "so in fact it gave us the opportunity to finalize some decisions for the first race, including the tyre choice. We have a very good idea of what we will run in Bahrain.

"Among these three days we have had some interesting results and could therefore make straightforward decisions to even see what we would run at the race in Barcelona later in the season. In the end, I can only say that year after year it is difficult to draw conclusions from pre-season testing, but we are definitely pleased that we have achieved so much throughout the whole winter."

To check out our Barcelona test gallery of over 260 pictures, click here

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Published: 24/02/2006
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