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Valencia Test Day Three - Pizzonia on form 30 Jan 2004

Former Jaguar driver Antonio Pizzonia (BRA) in the paddock.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Indianapolis, USA, 25 September 2003

Antonio Pizzonia staked his claim to a full-time Williams testing position on Thursday by blitzing the unofficial lap record at Valencia. The Brazilian, in a modified version of last year's FW25, bettered the mark set by Juan Pablo Montoya just a day earlier in the new FW26.

In the final day of the Valencia session, Pizzonia completed over 60 trouble-free laps of the Spanish circuit, focussing on mechanical and aerodynamic set-ups. Meanwhile, Williams colleague Marc Gene carried out a race-simulation, setting the day's third best time in the process.

Ralf Schumacher had been due to test in a third Williams, but he was taken to hospital with abdominal pains. He was, however, later given the all clear and is expected to be back in the car in Barcelona next week.

Brother Michael, meanwhile, was second fastest in the Ferrari F2003-GA. On Friday he switches to Fiorano in Italy, where he will get his very first taste of the car that could bring him a seventh world title, the new F2004.

Fellow Bridgestone runners Sauber had Giancarlo Fisichella in action, taking over for the final day from team mate Felipe Massa. The Italian was fourth in the times after putting another 76 laps of development on the Swiss team's new C23 machine.

"Our test programme for today basically focused on Bridgestone work whereby we concentrated on the assessment of different front and rear tyre constructions," explained Sauber's Chief Race Engineer Jacky Eeckelaert. "In addition we undertook some brake evaluations. Despite of losing valuable test time yesterday due to the interruption caused by a mechanical problem we were able to complete our programme for this week on the whole."

BAR saw Jenson Button and Anthony Davidson go fifth and eighth respectively, both at the wheel of the team's hybrid '04 concept cars. Their new 006 machine is due to be unveiled in Barcelona on Sunday ahead of next week's test there.

"We had a bit of a problem this afternoon but other than that we have had a good test, and got through a lot of work," said Button of BAR's week. "We have been concentrating on longer-runs comparing performance and working on consistency with the tyres and car set-up.

"Previously we were just testing for reliability, but now we're looking at performance. We're getting better and better at the long-distance running and are much more consistent. I'm now looking forward to seeing the benefit of our hard work transfer to the new car. All of the information shows that it should be good."

Christian Klien brought Jaguar's session to close with sixth place in the times. Immediately ahead of him was Cristiano da Matta in the 2004 Toyota. "I had quite a varied day of testing," reported the Brazilian. "We started the morning by continuing our set-up work before moving on to some aero and tyre evaluation in the afternoon. The TF104 proved to be extremely reliable again. In terms of performance, we know the areas on which we need to do more work, but we are ready to do just that!"

Completing the timesheets was Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner. After only limited running on Wednesday, the Hungarian was delighted to be able to complete over 100 laps in the PS03. Minardi will next test at Misano, between February 9 and February 11.

"I'm very happy, because after a busy day of work, I don't feel particularly tired," said Baumgartner. "Strangely, the only problem I experienced was in my driving position. Yesterday, I felt I was comfortable, while today, when I spent much more time in the cockpit, I realised I was not quite so much at ease and that I need to adjust my seating position. Considering I have not driven an F1 car for almost five months, though, I think I did quite a good job, and I believe the team is satisfied with the feedback I provided to my race engineer."

Conditions at Valencia were again fine and sunny, with track temperatures of over 25 degrees Celsius. Testing resumes at Barcelona next week, with McLaren, Ferrari, Williams and Sauber among the teams expected. In addition, Jordan will be at Silverstone, where the new EJ14 could make its track debut.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Valencia:
1. Antonio Pizzonia, Williams (Michelin), 1:09.165
2. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:09.397
3. Marc Gene, Williams (Michelin), 1:10.440
4. Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (Bridgestone), 1:10.466
5. Jenson Button, BAR (Michelin), 1:10.474
6. Christian Klien, Jaguar (Michelin), 1:11.241
7. Cristiano da Matta, Toyota (Michelin), 1:11.310
8. Anthony Davidson, BAR (Michelin), 1:11.715
9. Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi (Bridgestone), 1:13.304