McLaren lead the way after four days in Spain
After four days of testing at Valencia last week it was McLarens Pedro de la Rosa who emerged with the fastest time, giving the team a much-needed boost ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
De la Rosa was the only man to dip under the 1m 10s barrier around the Spanish circuit, edging Ferraris Luca Badoer and Williams Marc Gene in the times.
A total of six teams attended the test, with Ferrari the only Bridgestone squad present. The world champions concluded their programme on Thursday, as Friday was given over to a Michelin wet-weather tyre test on an artificially dampened circuit. Williams tester Antonia Pizzonia was the Friday pacesetter, just ahead of de la Rosa, who completed a total of 282 laps over the course of the week.
Williams spent three days at Valencia, with Gene handing over to Pizzonia for Fridays session. The changeable conditions at the Spanish track allowed the team to perform both wet and dry weather tyre testing with Michelin, an ideal preparation for conditions typical at the Sepang circuit where high temperatures and heavy downpours are commonplace. General set-up work, with particular attention focused on traction control routines and suspension testing, completed the Williams schedule. Over the course of the three days, the drivers completed a total of 960 kilometers.
BAR test driver Anthony Davidson set the weeks fifth fastest time, but his Friday session came to a premature end after he aquaplaned off the circuit on only his second run, damaging the chassis of the teams 04 concept car. Nevertheless, the Honda-powered squad completed their programme.
"We've had a really good week apart from today, said Davidson. The car has been very reliable and we have got through an enormous amount of tyre testing. We learnt a lot and had a particularly good day yesterday when we worked on the Imola tyre choice. On Wednesday we made the most out of the dry conditions, went out on new tyres and ended up fastest for the day. That was really good and we actually set some good times in the wet that day as well. Because of that, I was really looking forward to the wet test today, but unfortunately I aquaplaned and went wide off the circuit. I didn't spin, but I ran over a kerb which damaged the chassis. I was only on the outlap and it was just a disappointing end to a really good test. I'm now looking forward to getting out to Malaysia for Friday practice."
Like BAR, Renault relied on one test driver to carry out their four-day programme. Frenchman Franck Montagny set the weeks sixth-fastest time in the R23. "We completed the week's programme with a planned wet test," explained Renaults Chief Test Engineer Christian Silk. "It was an encouraging day working on the wet tyres, and one compound in particular holds real promise. Overall, the tyres performed well in terms of both consistency and speed, and we did plenty of laps to round off a productive session."
Apart from Ferrari, Toyota were the only other team to have two cars in action at Valencia, with test drivers Ricardo Zonta and Ryan Briscoe completing just under 400 laps between them and setting the seventh and eighth best times overall.
"This week's test programme revolved around Michelin tyre work, but unfortunately the first two days were compromised considerably by changeable weather conditions, explained Zonta, who was in a 2003 TF103. The first day was hit by intermittent rain and on Thursday we had to contend with windy conditions, which limited any meaningful running.
Today (Friday), we had a much better day. We completed in the region of 130 laps doing a tyre test on an artificially wet track, and we found some good results. I am going to have a couple of days off now before I fly to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday for Malaysian Grand Prix week."
Briscoe, who used the later spec TF103B, added: "It's been a pretty good week of testing for me after a busy schedule over the Australian Grand Prix. We spent two days of solid running, completing our entire test programme, even in spite of some inconsistent weather conditions on the first day. The schedule was focussed mainly on electronics and software tuning for the next few races, but I also did a tyre compound test for Michelin in preparation for the San Marino GP in Imola. We found two good types of tyre, while Ricardo was busy working on the choice for next weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix."
The next major test session will be at the Paul Ricard circuit in France in the week following the Malaysian Grand Prix on March 21.
Unofficial best times from Valencia (excludes Friday wet session):
1. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:09.979
2. Luca Badoer, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:10.153
3. Marc Gene, Williams (Michelin), 1:10.248
4. Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:10.476
5. Anthony Davidson, BAR (Michelin), 1:10.736
6. Franck Montagny, Renault (Michelin), 1:10.946
7. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Michelin), 1:11.138
8. Ryan Briscoe, Toyota (Michelin), 1:11.165