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Imola Day Three - Badoer tops wet session 20 Feb 2004

Luca Badoer (ITA) Ferrari Test Driver Formula One Testing, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, 19-23 January 2004.

This week's final day of testing at Imola was a wet one and it was Ferrari and Bridgestone who excelled in the difficult conditions. Luca Badoer set the fastest time of the day, with a 1m 31.076s, at the wheel of an F2003-GA.

Heavy rain in the morning saw several drivers suffering spins. This eased considerably in the afternoon, but the circuit remained wet throughout the day. This allowed Badoer to complete 55 laps of a wet-weather tyre programme with suppliers Bridgestone.

Less than three-tenths of a second behind was the Michelin-shod Renault R24 of Jarno Trulli. A minor hydraulic delayed his progress in the afternoon, but otherwise both his and team mate Fernando Alonso's car ran without problem.

"A difficult final day owing to the cold, wet conditions, which meant the circuit had very low levels of grip today," said Pat Symonds, Renault's Executive Director of Engineering. "We nonetheless managed to reach maximum mileage with Fernando's engine, and both drivers started learning about the handling of the R24 in the wet."

Sauber drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa were third and fourth fastest respectively, the duo completing just under 100 laps between them. The Swiss team admitted they were actually quite grateful for the rain in what was their final pre-season test.

"It may sound strange, but we were lucky that it was raining in the morning and the track was wet all day long," said Chief Race Engineer, Jacky Eeckelaert. "During our whole pre-season testing this was the only rainy day and thus the only opportunity for us to gather data under these specific conditions. Felipe tested different wet tyre compounds, while Giancarlo focused on various set-ups, and I can say that we learnt a lot.

"Overall this final pre-season test was a perfect preparation for the Australian Grand Prix. We were able to improve the set-up of the car, and our tyre partner Bridgestone also made a step forward, which is very encouraging."

Nick Heidfeld and Giorgio Pantano concluded Jordan's test, completing 30 and 54 laps respectively. "Giorgio's planned programme concentrated on a simulated race distance but due to the conditions we decided to postpone this until Silverstone next week when hopefully we will have better weather," explained the team's Head of Race and Test Engineering James Robinson.

"We used the day instead to carry out numerous live refuelling pit stops and familiarising him with cockpit procedures. We focused on wet set-up work which may come into play at Albert Park or when we return to Imola for the San Marino Grand Prix in April, when it could be as cold and as wet as it was today."

Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner rounded out the Thursday timesheets, the Hungarian taking over driving duties from team mate Gianmaria Bruni. Baumgartner continued with the team's technical programme, which included assessment of aerodynamic components, and chassis set-up evaluation. A small mistake near the end of the afternoon session saw him go off the track and do some light damage to the front of the car. Nevertheless, at the conclusion of the team's final pre-season test the new PS04B had amassed nearly 1,200 km of running with impressive reliability.

"Today was the first time I have driven the new Minardi in wet conditions, and as a result, I'm aware I have some work to do to improve," said Baumgartner. "We made some good progress during the day, but I feel we still need to find a good chassis balance for the wet. I found myself struggling particularly with traction when the track was still wet but starting to dry."

Unofficial Thursday times from Imola:
1. Luca Badoer, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:31.076
2. Jarno Trulli, Renault (Michelin), 1:31.324
3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber (Bridgestone), 1:32.406
4. Felipe Massa, Sauber (Bridgestone), 1:32.662
5. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:33.165
6. Giorgio Pantano, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:35.320
7. Nick Heidfeld, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:35.500
8. Zsolt Baumgartner, Minardi (Bridgestone), 1:38.990