Paul Ricard day three - BAR back on top 16 May 2005
BARs Takuma Sato topped the times in the weeks final day of testing in France on Friday, showing the team have lost none of their impetus, despite their two-race ban.
Satos best lap, a 1m 00.744s, came after the teams were forced to switch to a different track configuration at Paul Ricard, following a heavy accident involving the McLaren of Alexander Wurz, which left the Austrian unhurt, but the barriers badly damaged.
Sato was running through Michelin tyre evaluations for forthcoming races, in particular the Canadian Grand Prix - before Wurzs accident the track configuration was one designed to simulate the Montreal circuit. He lost some time in the morning due to a hydraulic leak on his 007, but eventually went on to complete 131 laps.
"This was a very important test for us as it has been our only opportunity to run for three weeks and before the race at the Nurburgring, said Sato. Everyone in the test team has worked hard this week and so it is very rewarding to have topped the time sheet today. It has been a challenging day as we experienced two circuit layouts.
I completed a lot of kilometres during the tyre programme this morning and we made very good progress with the car set-up for the shorter circuit layout this afternoon, so it has been a successful day and the car has performed well. After everyone's hard work, we are really looking forward to the European Grand Prix and to coming back to the race even stronger and faster."
Sato was joined by team mate Jenson Button, who continued BARs aerodynamic test programme, re-evaluating some solutions from Wednesdays session, as well as further new configurations. Button managed 113 laps on his way to sixth place, in spite of losing some time to transmission problems.
"We've tested most of the items that we wanted to but it hasn't been the best day as we have suffered with some gearbox issues, he confirmed. It's nothing that we can't sort out though. Most of the tyre work was done on the other car, and we mainly concentrated on aero work. Everything we tested seemed to work well so we know which direction we're going in."
The Toyotas of Ricardo Zonta and Olivier Panis put in another strong showing in second and third places respectively. This test has been quite productive for us, reported Panis. We spent the first couple of days working on set-up and weight distribution for Monaco on the short circuit. We did pretty well, finding a really good balance. We also did some tyre tests for Monaco and it looks like we've found a good solution.
We then spent Friday morning doing work for Canada on the long circuit. We lost time with a gearbox control problem before switching back to a shorter circuit. Overall I'm quite impressed with our week's work because the car and tyres were not only strong, but they were also really consistent. So things are looking pretty positive.
Renault wound up their three-day programme with GP2 star Heikki Kovalainen again edging Franck Montagny in the times, as they finished fourth and fifth. Meanwhile at Red Bull, Christian Klien took over from Vitantonio Liuzzi to join David Coulthard. The Austrian was eighth, the Scot tenth.
At McLaren, as the team looked into the cause of Wurzs accident, which was not thought to be down to driver error, it was left to fellow tester Pedro de la Rosa to continue their programme, the Spaniard ending the day seventh in the timesheets.
"Despite Alex's accident we had a constructive day and we have gained some interesting data, said de la Rosa. We now have a very good understanding towards which Michelin tyre we will use at the Montreal race."
Completing the Friday line-up was Sauber and Jacques Villeneuve, both of whom experienced a frustrating session, as race engineer Giampaolo Dall'Ara explained: "Until Alexander Wurz's accident we could run our planned programme, but as a result of this we all had to return to the short track layout which was a big disappointment for our team.
It completely mixed up our programme and we needed to find a compromise, but at the end of the day we managed to complete the test. Unfortunately Jacques ran wide at one point and hit hard a kerb of another track layout. This damaged the car too much to continue, so we were forced to finish earlier today.
"Although we missed some running I think the test this week was not too bad overall. We were able to make our Michelin tyre selection for Montreal and found a reasonable set-up. However, the car's performance still needs improvement."
With only a week between the Monaco and European Grands Prix, the next major tests will take place in the week commencing May 30, at Monza and Silverstone.
Unofficial Friday times from Paul Ricard:
1. Takuma Sato, BAR (Michelin), 1:00.744s
2. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Michelin), 1:00.822
3. Olivier Panis, Toyota (Michelin), 1:00.993
4. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:01.052
5. Franck Montagny, Renault (Michelin), 1:01.343
6. Jenson Button, BAR (Michelin), 1:01.477s
7. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:01.667
8. Christian Klien, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:01.810
9. Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber (Michelin), 1:02.596
10. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:02.949