Rivals left trailing as Spanish weather turns
Ferraris Michael Schumacher was fastest by almost two seconds at Barcelona on Thursday as rain hit the Spanish circuit. After perfect conditions on the previous two days, the track was wet all day and it was the world champion who revelled in the conditions.
Schumacher did 50 laps of wet-weather set-up work in the F2004 to record a best time of 1m 23.765s. Renaults Fernando Alonso was second fastest on 1m 25.657s, with Rubens Barrichello third in the other Ferrari present on 1m 25.932s.
Alonso managed 43 laps in the R24, while team mate Jarno Trulli (eighth fastest) did just 23, as the French squad continued testing their latest spec V10 for Imola. "We made the best of the weather this week" commented Renaults Chief Test Engineer, Christian Silk. "The new engine specification looks promising for the forthcoming Grands Prix. The week has progressed as we had planned with a few minor problems along the way. Overall, we had a satisfactory last day of testing.
Jenson Button was the leading BAR driver in fourth place, while Wednesday pacesetter Takuma Sato was 13th after completing just a handful of laps. Alexander Wurz and David Coulthard were again on track for McLaren, the pair going fifth and sixth quickest respectively.
Ralf Schumacher was seventh for Williams, outpacing team hopeful Scott Dixon, who got his first taste a Formula One car in the wet. Both men evaluated different wet-weather tyres, with reigning IRL champion Dixon also carrying out some longer runs and engine mapping with the BMW-powered squad. The New Zealander completed 67 laps more than any other driver.
Sauber continued their three-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya, with Felipe Massa covering 24 laps to go ninth fastest. "Unfortunately it was raining all day so that we simply couldn't run our programme, said Mike Krack, Sauber Race Engineer. However, we used these weather conditions to do some Bridgestone wet tyre tests which went well. In the late afternoon the sky cleared up and we were able to work a bit on the car set-up for the Barcelona race and the C23 proved to be quite good under these conditions."
Cristiano da Matta joined Ricardo Zonta at Toyota and the two Brazilians finished 11th and 12th in the timesheets. "It's been a bit of a mixed test, said Zonta of his week in Barcelona. On Tuesday I completed over 80 laps, setting the car up and working on aerodynamics, launch control and traction control. The electronic systems make a big difference to tyre wear, and we found some improvements to lower the degradation.
On Wednesday I continued that work, along with working on tyre constructions and brakes, putting in nearly 100 laps. Olivier (Panis) carried out a very important tyre test but I had a few problems with the car's balance as I had set it up for warmer weather. As the track got colder towards the end of the day it became harder and harder. The weather was very changeable on Thursday, stopping us from doing our planned long runs to check the tyres. I'll have two days testing at Estoril next week, and we'll do some work to find our best wet tyres there."
Bjorn Wirdheim completed the Thursday line-up for Jaguar, the Swede putting in only a dozen laps in the R5 to set the days final time.
Testing continues at the Circuit de Catalunya on Friday.
Unofficial Thursday times from Barcelona:
1. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:23.765
2. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:25.657
3. Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:25.932
4. Jenson Button, BAR (Michelin), 1:26.150
5. Alexander Wurz, McLaren (Michelin), 1:26.172
6. David Coulthard, McLaren (Michelin), 1:26.391
7. Ralf Schumacher, Williams (Michelin), 1:27.013
8. Jarno Trulli, Renault (Michelin), 1:27.940
9. Felipe Massa, Sauber (Bridgestone), 1:28.159
10. Scott Dixon, Williams (Michelin), 1:28.320
11. Cristiano da Matta, Toyota (Michelin), 1:28.456
12. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Michelin), 1:29.359
13. Takuma Sato, BAR (Michelin), 1:30.524
14. Bjorn Wirdheim, Jaguar (Michelin), 1:31.572