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Barcelona Day Three - Alonso on top 05 Feb 2004

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R23B 
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Japanese Grand Prix, Suzuka , Japan, 10 October 2003

Fernando Alonso topped the times in the third day of testing at Barcelona on Wednesday. Alonso ran over 100 laps at the wheel of the new Renault R24 to set a best time of 1m 14.670s, almost a second slower than Takuma Sato's Tuesday lap record.

Alonso conducted a full-race simulation in the morning, before switching to tyre testing in the afternoon following a scheduled engine change. "I am feeling more and more confident in the car, and it is gradually becoming much better to drive," reported the Spaniard. "It was encouraging to once again complete a race distance without any problems this morning. There is still room to improve, but we are definitely moving in the right direction."

Ralf Schumacher was second fastest, less than a tenth down on Alonso, as he focussed on set-up work in the new Williams FW26. Team mate Juan Pablo Montoya was eighth quickest in a similar machine, the Colombian carrying out simulated pit stops as part of his programme, while tester Marc Gene took fourth spot as he continued tyre work in a 2003-spec FW25.

Jenson Button and Takuma Sato were third and 10th respectively as BAR brought their three-day session to a close. "We are very pleased with the outcome of this test," said technical director Geoffrey Willis. "The BAR Honda 006 is performing as we expected, and although we had some problems on the first two days, we finished off the test with a very strong day, completing over 500kms with the new car. Overall, the performance looks very good."

At Ferrari Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer made further progress with the team's Bridgestone tyre programme. Between them they totalled 159 laps at the wheel of F2003-GAs, with the Brazilian fifth and the Italian ninth. Barrichello will get his first taste of the F2004 at Mugello on Saturday.

Olivier Panis was the fastest Toyota driver, taking seventh spot immediately behind Renault tester Franck Montagny. Team mate Cristiano da Matta was 12th, splitting the McLaren trio of Kimi Raikkonen, Pedro de la Rosa and David Coulthard, who were all in the MP4-19. Bottom of the timesheets was Felipe Massa. However, the Brazilian completed just a handful of laps before his heavy accident (see earlier story) brought Sauber's programme to a premature end.

Track temperatures were slightly cooler at Barcelona on Wednesday, reaching around 20 degrees Celsius once overcast morning conditions had given way to sunshine. Testing continues at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Barcelona:
1. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:14.670
2. Ralf Schumacher, Williams (Michelin), 1:14.676
3. Jenson Button, BAR (Michelin), 1:14.703
4. Marc Gene, Williams (Michelin), 1:14.996
5. Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:15.063
6. Franck Montagny, Renault (Michelin), 1:15.290
7. Olivier Panis, Toyota (Michelin), 1:15.458
8. Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams (Michelin), 1:15.592
9. Luca Badoer, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:15.649
10. Takuma Sato, BAR (Michelin), 1:15.722
11. Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (Michelin), 1:16.083
12. Cristiano da Matta, Toyota (Michelin), 1:16.120
13. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:16.437
14. David Coulthard, McLaren (Michelin), 1:16.574
15. Felipe Massa, Sauber (Bridgestone), 1:17.787