World Champion Kimi Raikkonen wrapped up this week's Valencia test, the second major test of 2008, by posting the fastest time of the day. However, the Finn failed to eclipse the time posted by McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen - admittedly on a light fuel load - on Wednesday.
There were a significant number of red flags today, with Piquet and Bourdais going off and Hamilton, Vettel and Fisichella all stopping out on track with various mechanical issues.
The Maranello outfit continued with its planned schedule for this test, mainly to gain further information on the F2008 regarding reliability and on finding the best set-up for the car. Raikkonen completed 88 laps while Massa completed 96.
The Italian team is back on track on February 4, when it will take part in two three-day tests at Sakhir, home of the Bahrain GP. Thus far, Ferrari and Toyota are the only confirmed teams.
Splitting the red cars, and only 0.017s off Raikkonen's pace, was Kovalainen, who continues to out-pace his teammate Lewis Hamilton. The Woking duo continued to focus on accumulating more miles in the MP4-23 whilst continuing the programme of set-up work and systems durability. Just over an hour before the end of the test Hamilton's car stopped out on track as his engine was in a process of planned reliability testing at the end of the week's session, with the team pushing it well beyond its limit of a two race weekend.
The team resumes its test programme at Barcelona on February 1. BMW
"With clear weather on all three days this week we have been able to accumulate more miles on the two MP4-23s," said Martin Whitmarsh, "which is crucially important at this stage of the development with the focus very much on endurance and reliability. Lewis, Heikki and Pedro have been doing a great job and the feedback we are getting has been extremely productive. Bridgestone have supplied us with a harder compound of tyre than we have usually used at this circuit, and we have been spending some time working with them closely on this. We are on target with our programme and looking forward to seeing how the car will handle round the Barcelona circuit next week."
Getting his first outing in the new FW30, Kazuki Nakajima continued to set an impressive pace, out-pacing 0.023s ahead of Hamilton. The Japanese driver, who was partnered by Nico Hulkenberg, was also the busiest driver today, completing 116 laps. Hulkenberg, in the FW29B, continued to familiarise himself with the car, completing 74 laps.
For BMW, Nick Heidfeld drove the F1.07B again and continued working on the systems based on the 2008 rules. Like yesterday, he had a limited programme. Meanwhile, Robert Kubica worked on the set-up of the F1.08, allowing the German team to find some favourable setting for the new car. The Pole also completed some long-runs.
"In terms of reliability the F1.08 is already very good," said Willy Rampf. We have covered numerous laps without any noteworthy problems to date. As far as performance is concerned, we are at the start of a comprehensive development phase. We have analysed the data from the test drives so far and identified the potential areas concerned. By the next test in Barcelona the car will already have received some relevant modifications. Following that, we will be using new components in all the other tests up to the start of the season. We have set ourselves an internal target which we aim to meet by Melbourne, and I am confident we will achieve that."
Toyota concluded its second test of the year with Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock at the wheel of their TF108s. As with the previous two days, the team's focus was on set-up evaluations and Trulli's programme included several aerodynamic configurations while Glock looked at aerodynamic and mechanical set-up.
The German had to wait to begin while electrical repairs were carried out but the Italian had a busy start to his session, trying various set-up options. Glock was back on track around midday and he made up for lost time with a busy stint behind the wheel as Trulli continued to gather important information. Despite the German's delay in the morning, the TF108 showed strong reliability throughout the three days, completing over 500 laps in total.
"Today we worked again on the aerodynamics of the new car," said Trulli, "running through the programme testing a lot of different things. It has been a busy test for me but we have done a lot of work and the data we got here will help us to improve the car. Now I am looking forward to Bahrain where we will continue to work on the set-up of the new car."
"It was a shame we lost some time this morning with a small problem," said Glock, "but my crew got the car ready quickly. We still had quite a bit of time to run through our programme in the afternoon and improve the balance of the car. Overall we have had a positive and encouraging test here. Both Jarno and I have concentrated on set-up and we have had a lot of time on track so the team has plenty of information to work with. We are heading in the right direction so I am happy with our work so far."
"This has been a very useful and positive test for us," said Test Team Manager, Gerd Pfeiffer. "Timo lost a bit of time this morning but over the three days the TF108 has been very reliable and that has enabled us to complete a lot of set-up work, which has helped us understand the new car better. With a new car it is important to complete as many laps as possible to get data on how it reacts to set-up changes and in that respect we can be very pleased with our progress. We will now continue to study the information from this test back in Cologne and work on getting more from the set-up at the next test in Bahrain."
Nelson Piquet Jr. was at the wheel of the R28-01, taking over driving duties from Fernando Alonso. It was the first time the young Brazilian has driven the new car, and so he spent the morning familiarising himself with the R28 and putting some more miles on the clock.
Sunny conditions remained for the afternoon, allowing the team to continue with its development of the car. It was a chance to concentrate on improving the balance and to continue with the set-up programme that Alonso had started earlier in the week. According to the French outfit, it was another productive day with good reliability, and the team achieved its objectives.
Piquet covered a total of 89 laps, with a best time of 1'12:973. Next week both drivers will be in Paris where the R28 will be officially unveiled to the media on 31 January. It will then be on to the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, as the team resumes its winter testing programme. The team will be running a two car programme with both Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr. in attendance.
"I think it was a good day," said Piquet, "and it was important for me to get back in the car. I have not raced in Formula 1 yet, so it's always beneficial to have time in the car. A new car always needs lots of set-up work and we continued with that today, trying different approaches to improve the balance of the car. I think there is a lot of promise and I'm looking forward to continuing working with the team next week in Barcelona."
"It was Nelson's first day in the new car," added Christian Silk, "and everything went to plan. We started off with some acclimatisation work for Nelson before continuing with the set-up programme that we had begun with Fernando. The track conditions were good again this afternoon so we did some more long runs with the car."
Giancarlo Fisichella completed 98 laps for Force India, with a programme that included work on set-up, dampers, some minor new set-up components and continued honing of the new ECU. His best time was just under two seconds off the pace, demonstrating a marked improvement in the team's relative pace over the three days. The Italian was unfortunate not to better this time however, as a small mechanical problem at the very close of the day prevented him completing a new tyre run.
"It was a good day today and we were able to complete the programme," said Fisichella. "Apart from the small problem at the end there were no issues and we could see we were getting closer to the others. We did some set-up work, and got some more understanding of the dampers and made some changes to the ride height, which made the car a lot more consistent. Even with lots of fuel and scrubbed tyres we were closer to the other teams - it would have been interesting to see how close we got - but we are definitely making progress and going in the right direction. I'm pleased with how it's going."
"It was an excellent final day today," added Mike Gascoyne, "apart from one minor mechanical issue right at the end of the day, we had no real reliability issues and were able to complete our programme. Giancarlo and the team improved throughout the day, completing work on set-up and dampers as planned, and it was just a shame that this improvement was not reflected in a better time as we were not able to run new tyres due to the problem at the end. Overall though a very useful three-day test for us at this stage in development."
Despite the numerous red flags, Toro Rosso is delighted that both its drivers were able to complete a significant amount of laps today, the two Sebs completing almost 210. Vettel even completed the long run testing he was unable to finish on Wednesday.
"These three days have been good from a reliability point of view, with around two thousand kilometres completed," said Chief Engineer, Laurent Mekies. "We have made progress with this reliability, especially in terms of the gearbox. We also increased our understanding of the control systems for the 2008 electronics and acquired useful data regarding car set-up."
Mark Webber's second day at the wheel of the Red Bull RB4 came to a premature end after kerb damage was discovered on the monocoque. Although not serious, it could not be repaired in time to resume testing.
"Overall, this three day test has been positive, with the RB4 showing encouraging performance and reliability," maintained Chief Test Engineer, Ian Morgan. "Even the two runs Mark managed this morning went well, but the early stop meant we did not get through all of today's programme."
Today it was the turn of Jenson Button to try the new Honda RA108. Despite completing 80 laps, the Englishman remained 2.5s off the pace, and though these are early days, fans, not to mention the Englishman himself, may have cause to worry. Meanwhile, Takashi Kogure continued to have fun, completing 25 laps in the RA107.
While the majority of the teams will now head to Barcelona, Ferrari and Toyota head to Bahrain.
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