It was a test day in every sense at Jerez today as all seven teams in action fielded their test drivers.
Topping the timesheets was Pedro de la Rosa in the McLaren, as the European GP winners began their preparations for Hungary.
After the mixed weather at the Nurburgring, conditions were ideal today with track temperatures hitting the high fifties.
The Spaniard completed 71 laps of the Spanish track on his way to posting a best time of 1:20.111, finishing the day over a second quicker than his nearest rival, Toyota's Franck Montagny.
de la Rosa's programme during the morning focused on set-up and aerodynamic work for the Hungarian race. During the afternoon however, McLaren, like all the other teams present, spent some time preparing for the regulation changes for the 2008 season, with the cars running without traction control. Lewis Hamilton takes over tomorrow.
Franck Montagny put in a full day's work as he concentrated on brakes, systems and starts for Toyota. Ralf Schumacher will be at the wheel tomorrow.
"Apart from shakedowns and straight line tests this is the first time that I have driven this car for over two months," said the Frenchman. "However, I've trained hard in the meantime so it didn't feel any different to usual, even despite the extreme heat today, so that is good.
"We spent much of the day running without traction control in preparation for 2008," he continued. "That meant the car was sliding a lot but we put in some useful laps and found a good direction to take. This week we are also working on improving our start procedure along with brakes and other systems. So it was a good day and we're getting there. We've already changed the car a lot and I'm happy with it and confident that progress can continue."
"Following the weather disruptions we have faced at recent tests at Silverstone and Spa it is a relief to have a week where we can expect hot, sunny conditions throughout," admitted Toyota test team manager Gerd Pfeiffer. "Today Franck had a range of items to test in his programme. One of the main areas we worked on was brake testing but he also did some work on starts and other systems along with some runs without traction control. It was a productive day and we made it through our planned programme without problems. Ralf will take over the driving duties for tomorrow."
After Alex Wurz' fourth-place finish on Sunday, the Austrian and teammate Nico Rosberg were given the day off, with Kazuki Nakajima on duty for Williams. The Japanese driver clocked the highest number of laps over the day (104) and set the third quickest time. The team will resume work tomorrow, again with Kazuki in the cockpit of the FW29.
"We had a trouble free day today doing set-up work prior to the next race in Budapest," said Dickie Stanford. "There were no problems with the car and we will carry on with our test programme with Kazuki tomorrow."
Super Aguri began its final three-day test before the mid-season break. The primary focus of today's test plan was to evaluate and understand the Bridgestone Potenza tyre options in hot conditions in order to prepare the team for the high temperatures usually experienced at the Hungaroring.
James Rossiter ran through initial set-up work and longer tyre runs. He ended the day with the fourth fastest lap time.
Having tested for Spyker at Spa-Francorchamps, Christian Klien was back in action for Honda today. The Austrian spent the early part of the morning completing various data runs as the circuit was dusty following a weekend motorcycle event. By mid morning the circuit had improved enough to begin his planned programme during which he ran through a front aero test. He completed a baseline run after the lunch break before completing an evaluation of new mechanical parts. The Austrian completed 70 laps on his way to posting the fifth best time of the day, albeit almost 2s off de la Rosa's pace.
Nelson Piquet was at the wheel for Renault, conducting a limited programme on a circuit that was inevitably lacking in grip on the first day of running. The primary objective for the day was to accumulate mileage on the low downforce package to be used at the race in Monza in September. It was essential to complete this mileage to approve the components prior to testing in Monza in late August, but it meant Nelson was running in a configuration that was far from ideal given that the Jerez circuit usually demands high downforce.
During the afternoon, he conducted a short, basic set-up programme but as is usual during the hottest part of the day, his lap-times where significantly slower than in the cooler morning conditions.
"The main goal for today was to put the necessary mileage on the parts for Monza, and we managed to do so," said Piquet. "As usual on day one of the test, the circuit conditions were quite poor, and the track was 'rubbering-in' all the way through the day, making it hard to get a good feel for how the car was handling. I am driving again on Thursday, by which time the conditions and car balance should have improved a lot."
"We planned quite a limited programme for our opening day of testing," admitted Christian Silk, "given that circuit conditions are usually poor and that we have to count our mileage very carefully under this year's testing mileage restrictions. Nelsinho completed the necessary running to approve the Monza aero package, and then conducted a short set-up programme. Heikki will be driving tomorrow, when we will begin running with our latest aerodynamic developments in order to optimise the set-up of the car for the next two races."
As previously reported, Sebastien Buemi was on duty for Red Bull. replacing Michael Ammermuller. In addition to helping the Austrian team prepare for the forthcoming race at the Hungaroring, today's 78 laps go some way to helping the Swiis driver qualify for his Superlicense.
Once he had gone through the usual procedure of getting comfortable in the cockpit, Buemi's programme concentrated on aero testing and set-up work. Mark Webber is on duty tomorrow.
"I have driven the F1 car before, but only in a straight line," said Buemi, at the conclusion of the session, "so this was the first time I have experienced corners as well. The power out of the turns feels good but the most impressive elements of the package are the way the car goes through the quick corners, which is so much better than anything else I've experienced.
"I also enjoyed the speed with which the car can change direction and the power of the brakes. Towards the end of the day, my neck was beginning to get a bit sore, which I guess is normal, but I'm sure it will be fine by Thursday when I hope to have another run in the car."