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Heidfeld quick, Villeneuve quicker at Jerez 03 Dec 2004

Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) Sauber Petronas. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 2 December 2004. World © McNeil/Sutton

Thursday, the week’s third day of testing in Spain, saw Jacques Villeneuve take over where Sauber team mate Felipe Massa had left off as he set the pace around a predominantly wet Jerez circuit.

Villeneuve put in 74 laps in his first day of the week with the team and, when the track dried out somewhat in the afternoon, recorded a best time of 1m 22.071s - around four tenths quicker than the Williams of Nick Heidfeld.

"Today the weather was just like yesterday and the forecast for tomorrow is also not very promising, which makes testing a bit difficult,” explained Sauber race engineer Giampaolo Dall'Ara. “Therefore Jacques mostly used the day to further acclimatise to the car and the team. However, as soon as the track started to dry up in the afternoon we were able to do our best laps.

“We couldn't get a lot of references concerning aerodynamic and mechanical set-up tests, but we adapted our programme to the conditions and focused on further Michelin tyre work. Overall, despite of the bad weather and track conditions we still did quite a lot and the performance was pretty good."

After finishing well down the timesheets on Wednesday, Heidfeld found his feet at Williams and went almost a second quicker around Jerez than Antonio Pizzonia, his rival for a 2005 seat with the team.

"I'm really happy with the two days I've had in the car,” said Heidfeld. “It's a very nice car to drive, and I was getting more familiar with it lap by lap. I think I would have benefited from some more time, and better weather to get a proper feel of how the car handles in the dry. Overall though, it's been a very productive and satisfying test."

Heidfeld and Pizzonia concluded Williams’ three-day programme, the team having completed a total of 506 laps, equivalent to 2,241 kilometres of development work in preparation for 2005. Heidfeld will test for the team again next week.

"After a rather troublesome test in Barcelona last week, we've made good progress this week in Jerez,” said test team manager Tim Newton. “Mark (Webber), Antonio and Nick all did a good job with the interim cars and, despite some rather inclement weather, all three recorded impressive mileage.

“On his first outing with the team, Nick settled in well and gave us some productive feedback. Credit must be given to everyone, both at the factory and at the track, who have worked hard over the past week to rectify the teething problems encountered in Barcelona. As a result, we've had a relatively trouble-free, and therefore productive, test.”

Red Bull had a productive day, with Vitantonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien finishing third and fourth respectively. Swiss driver Neel Jani makes his debut for the team on Friday.

2003 British Formula Three champion Alan van der Merwe was the fastest BAR driver, the South African in his second day of testing with team as part of their driver development programme. And Briton James Rossiter, third in this year’s British F3 series, made his Formula One debut, finishing 16th in the timesheets.

Also for BAR, Takuma Sato ended the day seventh fastest. However, Enrique Bernoldi ended bottom of the order after a collision with the Jerez barriers damaged his car and brought his running to a premature end.

McLaren and Renault both began their Jerez programmes. At the former Alexander Wurz was 10th and Pedro de la Rosa 13th, while at the latter Giancarlo Fisichella was eighth, immediately ahead of team colleague Franck Montagny.

"Although the rain meant we completed a more restricted programme than we would have done on a dry track, it nevertheless provided the opportunity to complete a large amount of useful software development,” said Renault’s chief test engineer Christian Silk. “Also, Giancarlo had never driven on Michelin wet tyres before, so the conditions helped him in another aspect of his acclimatisation to our package."

The Ferraris of Luca Badoer and Marc Gene were 12th and 14th, as the world champions continued with a development programme of Bridgestone tyres and new components.

Ralf Schumacher was the sole Toyota runner in 11th, while completing the timesheets in 15th place was the Jordan of Robert Doornbos. The Dutchman put in almost 50 laps, despite beaching his car in the gravel at one point.

Elsewhere, Ferrari also continued their Fiorano programme with Andrea Bertolini working on new components and electronics. The Ferrari Maserati Group test driver completed a total of 91 laps, 46 of them on the short version of the track. None of the laps was timed.

Testing continues at Jerez and Fiorano on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday times from Jerez:
1. Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber (Michelin), 1:22.071
2. Nick Heidfeld, Williams (Michelin), 1:22.490
3. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:22.629
4. Christian Klien, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:22.869
5. Alan van der Merwe, BAR (Michelin), 1:22.884
6. Antonio Pizzonia, Williams (Michelin), 1:23.365
7. Takuma Sato, BAR (Michelin), 1:24.108
8. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:24.117
9. Franck Montagny, Renault (Michelin), 1:24.689
10. Alexander Wurz, McLaren (Michelin), 1:24.694
11. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Michelin), 1:26.210
12. Luca Badoer, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:27.580
13. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:28.325
14. Marc Gene, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:28.934
15. Robert Doornbos, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:32.224
16. James Rossiter, BAR (Michelin), 1:33.448
17. Enrique Bernoldi, BAR (Michelin), 1:33.474