McLaren, Renault lead, but Ferrari close the gap
Pedro de la Rosa was the fastest man in Barcelona on Thursday as McLaren wrapped up their three-day programme at the Circuit de Catalunya. The Spaniard clocked up 112 laps in the team's latest MP4-20 machine, with a best time of 1m 14.543s.
De la Rosa concentrated on calibrating the car for the forthcoming Australian Grand Prix. His running brought the teams total distance for the week to over 2000 kilometres, despite Kimi Raikkonens Tuesday accident, leaving Formula One CEO Martin Whitmarsh pleased with their progress.
"This week has seen another productive test, with the race team taking over duties from the test team to allow us to iron out any issues before the Australian Grand Prix, he said. The strength and durability of the cars meant that Kimi was able to walk away from his accident with no more than a bruised thumb, and the mechanics did an excellent job to repair the car and allow Pedro to continue with the planned programme for the final two days of the test."
Renault were again on the pace with Giancarlo Fisichella second fastest and Fernando Alonso sixth. The teams main priorities for the day were to complete race distances with both cars, prior to conducting tyre development work for Melbourne. Both drivers completed race distances before lunchtime and subsequently conducted performance runs on the range of tyre compounds available for the first race. The team also completed some set-up development.
In terms of lap-time, the car looked very consistent and competitive during these longer stints, reported chief test engineer Christian Silk. The afternoon was dedicated to tyre development for Melbourne, and our short performance runs provided some interesting avenues that we will pursue tomorrow over longer distances. Most reassuringly, we completed over 100 laps with both cars, and although there is still much to do before Melbourne, we are now making good progress in our preparations.
Ferrari jumped up the order with their interim F2004 M machine, Rubens Barrichello going third in the times and Michael Schumacher fourth. Barrichellos programme focussed on set-up and tyre work, while Schumacher carried out an endurance run.
Christian Klien was the quickest of the three Red Bull men in action. The Austrian was fifth, with David Coulthard seventh and Vitantonio Liuzzi ninth. Following the second week of testing their RB1 machine, the team described its technical package as sound and declared themselves happy with the reliability of its Cosworth engine.
Nick Heidfeld and Antonio Pizzonia rounded off Williams week, with the German eighth and the Brazilian tenth. "We concentrated on longer runs for stabilised temperature data, which is important to categorise the cooling exits we will require in the initial races of the season," said technical director Sam Michael.
"It was also important to do some set-up work on the tyre compounds that we will be taking to Melbourne. Although it's not normal to test street circuit compounds at Barcelona, it appears that the track resurfacing has changed the energy input by enough to shift the compound level. We did not encounter any major mechanical problems with the car."
Ralf Schumacher was the sole Toyota driver on track, taking over the revamped TF105 from team mate Jarno Trulli. He ended the day 11th in the timesheets, with only the Toyota-powered Jordans of Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro behind him.
Jordans programme focussed on tyre testing and chassis set-up work in preparation for the Australian Grand Prix, as well as practising pit stops. "I did 74 laps today and we tried a lot of new things with the car, especially tyre work for Bridgestone, said Karthikeyan. We also carried out some set-up changes and we are quite happy with the progress we have been making."
Testing continues at Barcelona on Friday.
Unofficial Thursday times from Barcelona:
1. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:14.543
2. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:14.595
3. Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:14.644
4. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:14.913
5. Christian Klien, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:14.973
6. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:15.012
7. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:15.087
8. Nick Heidfeld, Williams (Michelin), 1:15.563
9. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:15.657
10. Antonio Pizzonia, Williams (Michelin), 1:15.795
11. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Michelin), 1:16.293
12. Narain Karthikeyan, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:17.575
13. Tiago Monteiro, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:18.378