Testing update - de la Rosa flies at Jerez 12 Dec 2003
McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa made the most of the fine conditions at Jerez on Thursday, breaking the circuit's unofficial lap record in the 2004 MP4-19, despite a number of mechanical problems with the new car.
De la Rosa, who drove 53 laps, was around half a second quicker than fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso in the Renault. Alonso recorded 118 laps, the most of any driver on Thursday, working on brakes in the morning and then tyres in the afternoon.
Alexander Wurz was at the wheel of a second McLaren (an MP4-17D) and was fifth fastest, while Franck Montagny piloted Renault's other machine, working on a set-up and damper programme on his way to the day's sixth best time.
Williams tester Marc Gene out-paced colleague Juan Pablo Montoya as they took third and fourth spots respectively. However, the real focus of attention at the team was Ho-Pin Tung, whose run in last year's FW24 made him the first Chinese driver to test a Formula One car (see separate story).
Ferrari again had Luca Badoer and Rubens Barrichello in action, working on an engine, tyre and electronics programme, while at BAR Takuma Sato returned to join Jenson Button after Bjorn Wirdheim's Wednesday test.
Swiss test driver Neel Jani completed Sauber's four-day session, with the 15th fastest time. Chief Race Engineer Jacky Eeckelaert was pleased with his progress: "So far he has done only a few tests for us and being a very young race driver he naturally had some physical difficulties at his early tests for us. But today I saw Neel being in much better shape. He even ran his fastest lap at the end of the day which proves his very good conditions. He ran a lot of laps and did a professional job. I'm very happy with him.
"Due to the bad weather and track conditions on the first two test days we lagged a bit behind our schedule and had to catch up today. We worked with Bridgestone on different tyre types and assessed new brake materials as well as damper modifications. Neel confirmed the data which we gathered with Felipe in Jerez and with Giancarlo in Barcelona."
The Jaguars of Christian Klien and Mark Webber, and Toyota's Cristiano da Matta and Olivier Panis completed the Thursday line-up. Only Williams and BAR are expected to test at Jerez on Friday, in a wet-tyre session with Michelin.
Elsewhere on Thursday, Luciano Burti continued Ferrari's Fiorano programme, conducting tyre testing on a damp circuit, while at Vallelunga Minardi carried on with their week of driver evaluation, with Finn Heikki Kovalainen joining Jose-Maria Lopez and Fabrizio del Monte.
Unofficial Thursday times from Jerez:
1. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 1:16.192
2. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 1:16.687
3. Marc Gene, Williams, 1:17.128
4. Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams, 1:17.310
5. Alexander Wurz, McLaren, 1:17.6633
6. Franck Montagny, Renault, 1:17.794
7. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:18.319
8. Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, 1:18.341
9. Takuma Sato, BAR, 1:18.412
10. Cristiano da Matta, Toyota, 1:18.575
11. Christian Klien, Jaguar, 1:18.732
12. Mark Webber, Jaguar, 1:18.779
13. Olivier Panis, Toyota, 1:18.827
14. Jenson Button, BAR, 1:19.647
15. Neel Jani, Sauber, 1:20.257
16. Ho-Pin Tung, Williams, 1:22.082