Jerez day three - Renault up the ante 11 Feb 2005
Stunning pace from Renaults Fernando Alonso at Jerez on Thursday would suggest that the leading teams have already clawed back the bulk of the performance losses imposed on them by the revised 2005 regulations.
Alonsos best lap in the new R25, a 1m 15.727s, was less than a tenth of a second outside the track's unofficial record, and put him comfortably clear of nearest rival, McLarens Juan Pablo Montoya on a 1m 16.442s.
With Giancarlo Fisichella third fastest in the second R25, it was a positive session for Renault, as they completed their three-day programme in Spain. Both drivers worked on set-up in the morning and then on longer tyre evaluation runs in the afternoon.
We have learned a lot from our running this week, and it was pleasing to complete a full day's work with both drivers today, commented Renaults chief test engineer Christian Silk. There is still a lot of work to do before the first race in Melbourne, and we have two busy tests ahead of us.
However, we have confirmed the car's strong performance from Valencia here in Jerez, on a more typical circuit, and we hope to see these corroborated next week at Barcelona, an active Grand Prix venue. Certainly, our results so far lead us to believe that we are in very good shape for the first race of the year.
McLaren had a mixed day. Montoya completed 49 laps in the morning as he tested tyres in preparation for round two of the season in Malaysia, but then managed just one lap in the afternoon thanks to a clutch problem. Team mate Kimi Raikkonen didnt run at all after the team discovered a damaged suspension component on his car which had to be sent back to the factory for analysis.
Toyota moved back up the order, with Jarno Trulli, in fourth place, around a second faster than team mate Ralf Schumacher, who was seventh. Between them were Saubers Felipe Massa, and David Coulthard, who was by far the quickest of the three Red Bull drivers present.
Massa again outpaced team mate Jacques Villeneuve as Sauber rounded off a three-day programme of work. Both drivers completed just over 100 laps, leaving chief race engineer Jacky Eeckelaert positive about the Swiss squads progress.
"Today we compared different pre-selected Michelin tyres in long-runs to simulate race conditions whereby Felipe focused on preparations for the Australian Grand Prix and Jacques on Sepang, he explained. Jacques also ran further damper tests. He was forced to stop just before the end of today's test session due to technical problems which now need to be investigated.
"Despite of the bad weather and track conditions on Tuesday morning we were able to complete our scheduled programme for the week. Compared to our last test in Barcelona we improved the car and made progress. We believe that we can expect another step forward at our final pre-season test in Imola."
Breaking the pattern of the previous two days, Mark Webber was the leading Williams driver in eighth place. Both he and German team mate Nick Heidfeld ran similar programmes, with practice pit stops followed by general set-up work on the FW27.
The BAR team suffered car damage for the third day in a row after Jenson Button had a minor off in the morning. However, with the 007 repaired, he was back on track in the afternoon, ultimately racking up 72 laps of set-up, tyre and aero work to leave him ninth in the times. Team mate Takuma Sato, running a 006 car with a 2005 aero package, was tenth after 129 laps.
World champion Michael Schumacher was back in action for Ferrari, taking over from official test driver Luca Badoer. Both he and team mate Rubens Barrichello were at the wheel of interim F2004 M machines, featuring 2005-specification aerodynamic components. Schumacher ended the day marginally quicker than Barrichello, having completed 110 laps to the Brazilians 76.
Testing continues at Jerez on Friday.
Unofficial Thursday times from Jerez:
1. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:15.727
2. Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren (Michelin), 1:16.442
3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:16.659
4. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Michelin), 1:16.743
5. Felipe Massa, Sauber (Michelin), 1:17.273
6. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:17.526
7. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Michelin), 1:17.773
8. Mark Webber, Williams (Michelin), 1:17.940
9. Jenson Button, BAR (Michelin), 1:17.989
10. Takuma Sato, BAR (Michelin), 1:18.150
11. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:18.190
12. Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:18.245
13. Christian Klien, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:18.517
14. Nick Heidfeld, Williams (Michelin), 1:18.669
15. Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber (Michelin), 1:19.022
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:20.118