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Barcelona day one - Paffett first of three 29 Nov 2005

Gary Paffett (GBR) tests for McLaren Mercedes. Formula One Testing, Barcelona, Spain, 28 November - 2 December 2005. World ©  Capilitan/Sutton

Reigning DTM champion Gary Paffett topped the times for McLaren at Barcelona on Monday as winter testing got underway. The session marked the start of an intensive three weeks of Formula One track activity in the build-up to the 2006 season.

Both Paffett and McLaren test driver Alex Wurz were at the wheel of interim MP4-20Bs, which were running Mercedes’ new V8 engine, the FO108S. Paffett completed 58 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya to go a tenth quicker than Wurz. However, the Austrian managed only 11 laps due to transmission and hydraulics problems.

"I'm really happy to drive a Formula One car again after more than two years, and I particularly enjoy that I can test with Team McLaren Mercedes,” said Paffett. “I gained a lot of experience and enjoyed driving very much. For me, cornering speeds and braking were most impressive. However, the difference between the DTM and the Formula One car is not as big as it was between the Formula 3 and the Formula One car three years ago. Co-operating with the technicians I benefited a lot from my experience in the DTM. I'm already looking forward to continue testing tomorrow."

BMW Sauber were the other team in action on Monday, with Nick Heidfeld back in a Formula One cockpit for the first time since September. It was the first test of the Sauber C24B fitted with BMW’s new P86 V8 engine. In the morning, the car ran without any problems, but technical issues curtailed the team’s afternoon progress, Heidfeld having run 28 laps, with a best time just over a second down on Paffett’s.

"After an almost three-month break I could hardly wait for the first test,” said Heidfeld. “The chassis and engine ran without any problems in the morning. All the systems were working perfectly. Of course you can tell the difference in performance compared to the V10. That's something you just have to get used to. A positive surprise is that the engine vibrates a lot less than I had expected. In the afternoon we had to break off work early when the engineers spotted a problem in the data and told me to switch off the engine. Tomorrow we will resume our programme as planned."

Conditions were sunny but cool in Barcelona, with track temperature peaking at just 17 degrees Celsius. Paffett, Wurz and Heidfeld all continue running on Tuesday, when they are expected to be joined at the circuit by other teams including Toyota (debuting the new TF106), Williams (running their Cosworth V8 for the first time), Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Unofficial Monday times from Barcelona:
1. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:20.588
2. Alexander Wurz, McLaren (Michelin), 1:20.664
3. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:21.634