Massa leads the way as F1 action resumes


Testing kicked off at Barcelona today, with sixteen drivers in action representing nine teams, as F1 action returned after a break of almost six weeks.

Following the (early) departure of Michelin, all the teams are now running on Bridgestone, and consequently it was a question of 'softly, softly' for the teams that previously ran on French rubber, though McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa posted the second fastest time of the day. BMW and Honda also appear to have made a smooth transition to Japanese rubber.

Felipe Massa and Luca Badoer were on duty for Ferrari, the Italian team's successful relationship with Bridgestone continuing as the pair finished first and third. The Maranello outfit's technical programme featured long run tests, experimentation with new components and working on the set-up of the 248 F1.

McLaren had Lewis Hamilton and Pedro de la Rosa on duty. Both drivers were working on initial evaluation of the Bridgestone Potenza tyres and their affect on the balance of the car. In addition front wing, rear wing and floor packages were also assessed.

In the morning session Lewis stopped out on track with a minor engine mapping issue, however there was no problem with the engine and he was able to resume running once he returned to the garage.

BMW was represented by Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica. The morning was cold with the team opting not to send the Pole out at the beginning of the day, hoping for warmer temperatures as his main focus was the new Bridgestone tyres.

Heidfeld worked on a new transmission and was the first of the two drivers to go out on the track in the morning. Kubica was also testing new parts for the 2007 car.

Tomorrow, Nick will continue with the transmission testing and also work on brakes. The work of adjusting to the Bridgestone tyres will also continue on both cars, while Robert will also work on mechanical components for the 2007 car.

Rubens Barrichello and James Rossiter began work for Honda. Both drivers concentrated on initial tyre evaluations alongside a programme of set-up changes. Christian Klien will have his first run in a Honda car tomorrow (Wednesday) as he takes over from Rossiter.

Not for the first time, WilliamsF1 had just one driver on duty, this time Alexander Wurz. The Austrian finished ninth quickest, albeit 1.57s off the pace, once again using the Toyota powerplant.

Renault had Heikki Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet on duty. For the World Champions, the objectives for the week are to learn as much as possible about the Bridgestone tyres and to give the drivers the opportunity to adapt their driving to them.

The latest testing agreement also provides for a reduction in the number of tyres used by the teams during testing, to avoid the need for Bridgestone to manufacture and transport excessive quantities of tyres. Both drivers therefore had access to three sets of tyres each for their running today.

This first test since the team's double championship victory will also be used to complete reliability running on new components to be used in 2007.

Kovalainen began preparations for his Grand Prix debut next March in Melbourne in diligent fashion. He completed a substantial 91-lap programme without any problems, setting a fastest lap of 1:19.188. As for Piquet, he continued to learn about the team and the car while running the first laps with the new 2007 gearbox in a 'hybrid' R26 chassis.

"We had a very interesting first day at Barcelona running the Bridgestone tyres, and I think we collected a lot of important data," said Kovalainen. "The tyres are very different to those I have used so far in Formula 1: there is less grip overall, and we need to be a bit more careful in how we drive as well as adapting our style. But I am already confident I can adapt to them quickly, and that the team will have no problems understanding how to get the best from them."

"This was my first day of F1 testing at Barcelona," added Piquet, "and I completed my programme without any problems and did a lot of laps. I am quite pleased with this first day because my aim was simply to run as much as possible to continue learning about the car."

"We primarily focused on learning about the new Bridgestone tyres," said Christian Silk, "going about the work in our usual methodical way without worrying about topping the timesheets. It is always important to learn and understand how we need to work with a new partner. We began that process today at the track, and will continue to develop our partnership throughout this week of testing."

Splitting the two French cars was Anthony Davidson, making his debut with Super Aguri, though it would be foolish to start thinking that the Japanese team will be challenging for championship honours next season. The reality is that Super Aguri has a head start when it comes to Bridgestone rubber.

The Englishman's testing programme comprised an initial evaluation of the 2007 Bridgestone Potenza tyres whilst running through a series of set-up changes and familiarising himself with working with his new team.

Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed were on duty for Toro Rosso, which continued with the Cosworth engine, while 'sister' team, Red Bull, was represented by David Coulthard and 'new boy' Mark Webber, who raced for the Milton Keynes outfit when it was Jaguar.

Webber's first outing was interrupted by a couple of minor problems, while Coulthard got through his entire programme.

"It was good to be driving again and nice to see so many familiar faces in the team," commented the Australian. Both men are back in action tomorrow, while Thursday sees David joined by Michael Ammermuller.

Webber ran with Bridgestones this year when driving for WilliamsF1, however, according to chief test engineer, Ian Morgan, this is not much of an advantage: "The tyres are Bridgestones, but they are a different spec to the ones used this season. In fact, today and the next few tests are all about developing an understanding of these new tyres and adapting the car to suit their characteristics."

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Published: 28/11/2006
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