Honda-powered team on strong form ahead of Spain
BAR once again set the pace on Thursday as they continued testing alongside Ferrari and Minardi at the Mugello circuit in Italy. Jenson Button finished top of the timesheets, edging world champion Michael Schumacher by around a quarter of a second.
Button teamed up with Enrique Bernoldi to complete BARs two-day programme, taking over from Wednesday runners Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson. Button continued working on aerodynamic upgrades for the 007, while Bernoldi carried on with a split programme, using both the teams current car and a prototype chassis evaluating developments for the 2006 regulations.
"The test in Mugello went very well this week, said Button. I completed 123 laps today and we found some interesting things with the new aero package which I am confident will enhance our performance in Barcelona."
"It was an interesting day today, added Bernoldi, who went fourth fastest. I focused mainly on tyre evaluations completing a mix of short and long runs. It is five years since I drove at Mugello so it has been good to be back here, especially as it is such a fast track. I completed 151 laps today which is tough on such a physical track, so I'm very pleased and think that we have got some good data from the hard work."
Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello wrapped up Ferraris three-day programme with the F2005, again focussing on Bridgestone tyre work and aerodynamic development. The pair completed around 160 laps between them as the team prepared for the forthcoming Spanish Grand Prix.
Minardi concluded their two-day Mugello schedule with Patrick Friesacher, Christijan Albers and Chanoch Nissany all in action at various times. Once again, the race drivers were using the teams latest PS05 chassis, while official tester Nissany was at the wheel of the older PS04B.
In the near-ideal weather conditions, Minardi focused on cooling arrangements, aerodynamics, chassis and suspension set-up, and tyre evaluation in the course of the day's programme. Encouragingly for the team, both PS05s displayed good reliability, allowing Friesacher and Albers to collect considerable data and increase the team's working knowledge of the new car ahead of the Barcelona race.
"We made a number of changes to the car today, both in terms of chassis set-up and software, which meant we stayed in the garage a little longer than planned while all the technical matters were sorted out, explained Albers. Once on the track, however, we had a very good day.
The car showed it has speed, and with reliability as well, we were able to work through a solid programme. The PS05 is a new car, and there will continue to be small problems to be solved and work to be done in the coming weeks, but everything looks very positive at the moment."
Summing up their progress, Minardis sporting director and team manager Massimo Rivola commented: "We have taken a significant step forward in terms of overall vehicle reliability, which means we have achieved the main goal of this particular test. In addition, we made progress on the performance front, although it is clear the PS05 will have considerable potential for further improvement as the season progresses."
Unofficial Thursday times from Mugello:
1. Jenson Button, BAR (Michelin), 1:20.250
2. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:20.566
3. Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:21.406
4. Enrique Bernoldi, BAR (Michelin), 1:21.500
5. Christijan Albers, Minardi (Bridgestone), 1:24.380
6. Patrick Friesacher, Minardi (Bridgestone), 1:25.721
7. Chanoch Nissany, Minardi (Bridgestone), 1:39.510