Kovalainen quickest as Barcelona sees red


Over 4,000 race fans enjoyed a stop-start day of testing at Barcelona today, as 18 drivers continued preparations for the start of the European F1 season, despite a plethora of red lights caused by spins and failures.

The only team missing from this week's major test is Midland, which is carrying out a solo test at Silverstone.

Heikki Kovalainen topped the time sheets, with Renault teammate, Fernando Alonso, third quickest, the Spaniard one of many drivers to cause a red flag.

With conditions close to what can be expected for the Spanish GP, Renault worked to analyse the behaviour of the R26/RS26 package for the Spanish event on 14 May.

Fernando Alonso, who will be driving for two days this week (today and tomorrow), worked on set up and tyre development. His programme was interrupted by electronic problems, which meant he completed a restricted number of laps, but these will be resolved for tomorrow.

Heikki Kovalainen completed significant mileage as he worked through his programme to assist the team's race preparation. He also focused on set-up and tyre development during his first day of running this week.

The Finn will be back in action on Friday, with Giancarlo Fisichella driving alongside Fernando Alonso tomorrow.

"We made good progress today with Heikki's car," said Christian Silk. "He adapted to the car and circuit quickly morning, which was important as he had not tested here for quite a while. We confirmed the set-up improvements we had found in previous tests, and he got through a lot of tyre work. Fernando was also very productive in the laps he was able to run. Electrical problems limited his running, but we nevertheless had a positive day overall."

Splitting the two Renaults was Rubens Barrichello, who was joined by Honda test driver Anthony Davidson.

The Brazilian began the day with a couple of set-up runs and having found a good balance on the car, he then began an aero evaluation. Meanwhile, the Englishman completed some early aero runs before beginning a chassis set-up evaluation. With the track improving throughout the morning, he found a good balance on his car and completed the planned morning test programme.

Rubens continued to work on his aero evaluation in the afternoon session, while Anthony spent the afternoon continuing the chassis set-up evaluation which he began in the moring.

Oliver Panis and Ricardo Zonta were on duty for Toyota as the Japanese team focussed on aerodynamics, tyre construction and electronics.

"It was a very good day in general," said the Brazilian. "We worked on short runs, concentrating on tyre testing and aerodynamics.

"This is the first time that I have driven the 'new' car in Barcelona, since it was released in Vallelunga," he added. "It was very difficult with so many drivers on the track to get a clean lap, but in the end, we had a good time and were happy with the results. The car is showing potential and we still have a lot to do, but we are definitely moving ahead well."

"We worked on some electronics and had planned to work on some tyre testing," added Panis, "but due to some red flag delays during the day and we did not finish every item we wanted to get through. However, the team worked hard and we did our best to put in 71 laps.

"At the end of the day I can say that I am still adapting to the car and the tyres. I am working on getting a good feeling for the balance to be able to give useful feedback. We can see from Ricardo that the car drives well and can be quick, but it is just a matter for me to carry on the tests and prepare the car for the next races. With each test, there is progress and I am confident everything is coming along."

"It was a productive day with both cars," said chief engineer, Dieter Gass. "Ricardo was successful in gaining results on the tyres and aerodynamics and with Olivier we were working on electronic items. A lot of testing was hampered today by red flags and traffic, which was disturbing when we were trying to run our tyre tests. Yet, we managed to get through most of the work, both drivers were pushing hard and there are some very clear directions to focus on for the coming races."

Tomorrow, Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli will be on hand to continue the test agenda.

David Coulthard, sixth quickest, was one of several drivers to spin, thus bringing out the red flags, yet still managed to complete a race distance. The Scot was joined by Christian Klien, who finished eighth quickest.

Splitting the Red Bulls was Mark Webber, who today learned that he has won the prestigious Lorenzo Bandini trophy. However, there were no awards for WilliamsF1, or indeed Cosworth, with both Webber and Nico Rosberg losing track-time due to engine problems.

"We had a very varied programme," said Mike Condliffe, "testing some new mechanical parts for reliability and performance, as well as some more aero parts. Mark continued the afternoon session with the tyre evaluation test series that we started yesterday."

Kimi Raikkonen and Pedro de la Rosa were on duty for McLaren, the Spaniard continuing his programme from last week at Paul Ricard.

Kimi covered 31 laps of the Spanish track as he set the 12th fastest time of the day with a 1m15.955. The Finn's running began shortly before 14:00, as a result of his MP4-21 arriving in Barcelona from the McLaren Technology Centre early this morning. The car had returned from the Australian Grand Prix, following spare car duties at the opening three races, and was rebuilt in Woking prior to travelling to the test.

Pedro completed 74 laps of his home track. The Spaniard put in a time of 1m15.781, which saw him take 9th position on the timesheets. His day ended about two hours before the end of session with an engine failure. As there was only a short period of time until the end of running, the test team will be replacing his V8 prior to the start of tomorrow's session.

McLaren will continue running here tomorrow with Juan Pablo Montoya joining Kimi on track.

Tenth and sixteenth quickest, were Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Marc Gene. Today's schedule had Marc continuing with the endurance run he began yesterday, as well as starting a Bridgestone tyre development programme. Massa also did some tyre testing, while working on the car's aerodynamics and on finding the best set-up. The Brazilian caused a red flag when he ran out of fuel.

Michael Schumacher will join Massa tomorrow.

Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica were on duty for BMW as the German team attempts to build on its double-finish in Melbourne.

Nick spent part of the day working on brake 'packages', while Robert focussed on set-up work. However, they both worked on aero testing and tyre testing for Michelin in the afternoon.

Tonio Liuzzi was in action for Toro Rosso, the Italian completing 107 laps. "We are happy with today's work and Tonio did a good job of driving consistently," said chief engineer, Laurent Mekies. "With this being the final test at this track before the Spanish Grand Prix, we worked on set-up for that race and Tonio also did a brake system comparison and he was able to run on tyres very similar to those we will use in Imola at the next race."

Unsurprisingly, Takuma Sato, in the Super Aguri, was the slowest driver, however, his best time was only 4.3s off Kovalainen's pace.

"This is our first full test programme running the SA05," said chief race engineer, Graham Taylor, "so we are happy that Taku had reliable start and that we were able to cover the majority of our planned set-up changes.

"The team is very satisfied with the content and results from today which have provided a number of avenues for us to investigate in pursuit of car balance. We are looking forward to a full program with Bridgestone tomorrow."

Sato is undertaking driving duties for the first two days of the test, with Yuji Ide concluding the team's running on Friday.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 12/04/2006
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