Imola Day One - strong start for Renault 18 Feb 2004
Renault were the fastest of the three teams on track at Imola on Tuesday, as this week's session at the Italian circuit got underway. Fernando Alonso set the pace, closely followed by team mate Jarno Trulli.
Both Renault drivers worked on set-up of the R24 in the morning, evaluating suspension changes from last week's Jerez test, before switching to tyre evaluation in the afternoon. Trulli was running the latest engine spec that the team will use in Melbourne and encountered no problems with it.
"A pleasing first day at Imola: in spite of the slightly shorter running hours at this circuit, we have completed a total 800km today with the two cars and made good progress with our programme," reported Renault's Executive Director of Engineering, Pat Symonds. "We experienced no reliability problems, and both drivers are reporting the new car to be a good improvement over the kerbs relative to its predecessor."
Sauber's Felipe Massa and Giancarlo were third and fourth fastest respectively, both running over 60 laps in the C23 at the start of the Swiss team's planned three-day session. "Since Imola has similar characteristics as Melbourne we did some set-up work on both cars in view of the Australian Grand Prix," explained Chief Race Engineer, Jacky Eeckelaert.
"In the morning Felipe also tested different brake parts and various aero configurations. In the afternoon he evaluated several tyre compounds also as a preparation for the first race of the season.
Giancarlo tested different damper settings which we had simulated before on the seven-post-rig in the factory."
Completing Tuesday's Imola line-up were Jordan, who had Nick Heidfeld and newly-signed team mate Giorgio Pantano in action. Both completed 61 laps, with Heidfeld going close to two seconds quicker than Pantano, who was shaking down a second new EJ14 chassis.
"It's good to have two EJ14s running for the first time and at a track which brings out many challenges that we may see at the first races of the season in Melbourne and Sepang," said Jordan's Head of Race and Test Engineering, James Robinson. "We have been learning about those issues and how to address them today, which is clearly productive at this stage.
"Giorgio Pantano has had his first day of testing with us since we signed him - he has been shaking down the second EJ14, which is planned to be his race car. Now that we have over 2500km on the EJ14, tomorrow we hope to be able to start looking at performance criteria."
Conditions at Imola were clear, but cool. Testing continues on Wednesday, when Ferrari are due to join the session with Luca Badoer at the wheel of an F2003-GA. The world champions tested alone at Mugello on Tuesday, with Michael Schumacher in the F2004.
McLaren were also in action on Tuesday, with David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen, at Valencia in Spain. Williams, BAR, Toyota and Jaguar are expected to join the session on Wednesday.
Unofficial Tuesday times from Imola:
1. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:20.480
2. Jarno Trulli, Renault (Michelin), 1:20.736
3. Felipe Massa, Sauber (Bridgestone), 1:22.028
4. Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (Bridgestone), 1:22.331
4. Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:22.400
5. Giorgio Pantano, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:24.280