Jerez Test Day Seven - Ralf tops wet session 14 Jan 2004
Tuesday's final day of testing at Jerez was given over to a wet-weather Michelin tyre test, with Williams, BAR and Toyota all running on an artificially-watered track. Ralf Schumacher again topped the times in the new Williams FW26.
Despite another delayed start due to foggy conditions, Schumacher completed 63 laps of the Spanish circuit on his way to a best of 1m 26.968s. He was joined by Williams test driver Marc Gene, who did 77 laps in a 2002-spec FW24, finishing the day fourth fastest.
Of Williams' seven days at Jerez, BMW Motorsport Director Mario Thiessen commented: "The comparison between the FW25 and the FW26, which was running for the first time, was interesting. The FW26 ran without problems right from the beginning and proved to be fast. Both chassis have been equipped with the BMW P84, our race engine for the 2004 season.
"Engine wise, we are pleased with the progress of development. The focus has been equally on engine set up and reliability. Due to excellent test conditions - very few red flags and generally good weather - we have been able to record more than 4000 test kilometres. We will now return to Munich with the information we gathered in Jerez to prepare for next week's test in Barcelona."
Jenson Button was second fastest as BAR completed their programme of work at Jerez. Despite a number of engine problems during the session, technical director Geoffrey Willis said he was happy with the progress the team had made in Spain.
"Alongside an extensive tyre test, the focus for this test has been on systems reliability and optimising set-up for the Michelin tyres," he said. "All three drivers have been able to drive the car in dry conditions, which is a big improvement on the previous Jerez test, and has enabled us to gather some useful data. The car has continued to be extremely reliable, and we have completed another two race-weekend distances.
"We have had several new specification engine failures, for which Honda has now identified the cause. Otherwise the cars have continued to run faultlessly. This level of reliability is very important for us as we work towards getting the best out of the Michelin tyres. Although we haven't been focusing on out-and-out lap times, we have been very happy with the performance of our '04 Concept car. We are now looking forward to getting our new car on the track in two weeks' time."
Completing Tuesday's line-up at Jerez was Toyota's Ryan Briscoe, who went third quickest to bring the Japanese team's programme to a close. "This was my first test of 2004, and it was a great start to the year," said the Australian. "In three days, I have been able to complete over 300 laps and we completed our test programme without any dramas. We had some very foggy mornings, which limited running in the morning, but we more than made up for that in the afternoon sessions - over 1300 kilometres in three days is pretty good going.
"The majority of our run plan was again focussed on Michelin tyre development, which will be one of the most influential areas of performance again this season. Additionally, we did a lot of work on traction control and gearshifts this week, so all in all it has been a busy, but useful test and I am looking forward to next week's session in Barcelona."
Testing attention switches to Valencia on Wednesday, when the new Sauber C23 will make its first track appearance. The next major, multi-team test begins at Barcelona next Tuesday.
Unofficial Tuesday times from Jerez:
1. Ralf Schumacher, Williams (Michelin), 1:26.968
2. Jenson Button, BAR (Michelin), 1:27.406
3. Ryan Briscoe, Toyota (Michelin), 1:28.128
4. Marc Gene, Williams (Michelin), 1:29.116