The Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and James Rossiter topped the timesheets on the final day of testing at Jerez this week, the penultimate test of 2006.
As predicted, much of the day was held in wet conditions, with teams running extreme wet weather tyres at the start of the session. As the day progressed conditions gradually improved, and drivers began to get closer to the sort of times posted on Wednesday and Thursday.
Barrichello and Rossiter initially went out on extreme wets before switching to wet tyres. The Brazilian completed a couple of short set-up runs to look at engine control settings, whilst the Briton worked through a longer tyre evaluation run. During the afternoon, both drivers continued with set-up work and longer tyre runs on the Bridgestone dry tyres.
"We have had another very productive week," said Mark Ellis, "working to acclimatise to the new Bridgestone tyres. Since last week's test in Barcelona, we have been analysing all the data gathered, which has provided us with some new and interesting directions for the car set-up. These have proven to be successful and reflected in our competitiveness this week. This week's changeable weather conditions have also allowed us to work with the new wet weather tyres which have also performed consistently."
Third quickest, behind the two Hondas, was yesterday's pace-setter, Lewis Hamilton, who was once again partnered by Pedro de la Rosa. Between them, the Woking drivers completed 167 laps, though the Englishman's day was marred by a technical failure which saw him stop on track late in the afternoon.
"Despite a mixed week weather wise, the test was a positive session and we were able to complete the planned programme," said McLaren chief executive, Martin Whitmarsh. "The main focus for the test team continued to be developing our understanding of the Bridgestone Potenza tyres. The wet weather conditions have also allowed us to run on wet weather tyres, which has proved useful in gaining valuable intelligence of this track condition.
"Alongside the main Bridgestone programme Lewis and Pedro have been working on individual programmes. Lewis's week has seen him focus on continued set-up evaluation and rear suspension. Pedro meanwhile has been spearheading the aerodynamic development programme, including work on the front and rear wing packages."
Despite the conditions at the start of the session, Toyota Young Driver Programme member Kamui Kobayashi showed no fear and followed Ralf Schumacher out of the garage, with the Toyota pair the first drivers to brave a wet track for an installation lap.
Plans to continue evaluation of the 2007 Bridgestone tyres were put on hold until the track dried but in the afternoon sunshine, both Schumacher and Kobayashi returned to the planned programme and put the new rubber through its paces.
"We were expecting rain this morning and we were not disappointed!" said Gerd Pfeiffer. "It was not too bad from a testing point of view because it gave us the chance to gain more knowledge of our wet tyres and that is always useful because it is hard to simulate real wet conditions.
"Both Ralf and Kamui did well not to make any mistakes on a difficult track and when the circuit dried we were able to return to our programme of testing the new dry tyres."
Both Renault drivers also got a first taste of the new tyres in tricky damp conditions, and were still able to make good progress with their technical programmes once the circuit had dried.
Giancarlo Fisichella's target was once again to run the maximum number of miles possible, but today his goal was to put miles on the new 2007 gearbox for reliability reasons. This afternoon, once the track was completely dry, he was able to work on car set-up, a programme he completed without incident. He finished the day 7th fastest.
Like his team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen made the most of the morning's wet weather to discover the new wet tyres. He collected useful data before continuing a programme of set-up validation. Unfortunately, he suffered a mechanical failure early in the afternoon, but still managed to complete his programme and finish the day in 6th position.
"I am pleased with how this first session went," said the Italian. "It was important to do lots of laps in order to learn about our new Bridgestone tyres. I learned a lot, and I feel that I made some good progress this week in Jerez. We will continue to improve next week, so I am feeling pretty optimistic."
"It was a difficult but interesting session this week," added Kovalainen, "because we ran in every kind of conditions. There was a lot of data collected and once we have analysed it, we will be able to make even more progress next week. We worked very hard, and we know where we are with the programme; I am feeling confident, and happy with what we have done this week."
"This was a good final day's running for us, which was unexpected given the conditions this morning," admitted Christian Silk. "But we ended up making good progress, the new gearbox ran well, and we found some more interesting set-up ideas that we can investigate more fully next week in our final test before Christmas. We will be working hard until the end of the final day's running."
Both BMW drivers, Nick Heidfeld and Timo Glock, made good use of the bad conditions at the start of the day to use extreme weather tyres and make some system checks. They then switched to wet weather tyres, making comparisons between new and used ones, and with the track drying up they were finally able to use grooved tyres.
While Heidfeld worked on set-ups in the afternoon, Timo, who was on his second day of testing with the team, worked on a damper programme. Both drivers used the new gearbox. They had a trouble- free day and were able to complete more than 100 laps each. The team reports that it has made significant progress and has learned a lot about the new tyres.
Anthony Davidson finished ninth quickest, as Super Aguri continues to make good progress. "This has been another positive week," said the Englishman. "Jerez is a circuit I know very well and so I was able to get of a better feel for the 2007 Bridgestone Potenza tyres this week than I did in Barcelona. We made improvements to the car all week and ended with a good balance at the end of day three so I am happy with our progress."
"Anthony has completed a comprehensive chassis programme this week and a total of 252 laps," said Gerry Hughes, head R&D, "in what at times have been difficult weather conditions. The week's test programme has been structured wholly around learning more about the 2007 Bridgestone Potenza tyres and the experience gained will be put to good effect when Takuma Sato joins the SAF1 team in Jerez next week for his first F1 test since the Brazilian Grand Prix in October."
"Yet again, the main item on our test agenda was evaluating the Bridgestone Potenza tyres," said Red Bull's chief test engineer, Ian Morgan. "We were provided with a different, one-step softer tyre than the one we tried in Barcelona, but in addition, rain on Wednesday and again today, meant we were also able to try the Standard and Extreme wet weather tyres. We can be happy with the work we did, as both cars ran trouble free and we completed our programmes."
Ferrari was well down the pecking order, Felipe Massa posting the thirteenth fastest time of the day, 1.173s off the pace. While Luca Badoer could only manage fifteenth.
The Maranello outfit completed the technical programme initiated on Wednesday, comprising engine endurance testing, experimentation with new components and working on finding the best set-up.
"In the dry, we were running a tyre that is one step softer than the one we tried in Barcelona last week and it behaved quite differently," said Torro Rosso's chief engineer, Chief Engineer Laurent Mekies, "which made for an interesting test.,
"Because of the weather, we effectively tried three types of tyre. Both Tonio and Scott did a good job and apart from the tyre work, Tonio did some brake material testing, while Scott worked on mechanical set-up. We are back here in Jerez next week, which means we will have the luxury of verifying the data we have acquired this time."
Propping up the timesheets was Kazuki Nakajima in the
"Although he has already briefly driven the car in Fuji, today was effectively Kazuki's first day testing a Formula One car," admitted test team manager, Mike Condliffe. "There was very heavy rain in the morning and the track was very slow to dry, so we were forced to wait for more favourable conditions before starting our programme.
"When he did get out on track, Kazuki spent the day familiarising himself with the car and making adjustments between runs to suit his driving style. He made good progress and his lap times improved throughout the session."
Testing resumes at this circuit next Wednesday (December 13).