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BAR push for French breakthrough 27 Jun 2005

Jenson Button (GBR) BAR Honda 007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Indianapolis, USA, 18 June 2005

McLaren lead again, but British rivals very close behind

With four drivers in action on the final day, BAR narrowly lost out to McLaren for fastest time in last week’s Jerez test, leaving the team in positive mood ahead of this weekend's French Grand Prix.

Jenson Button finished less than a tenth of a second behind Kimi Raikkonen on Friday at the end of the three-day session. Button focussed on aerodynamic solutions in the morning before handing his car over to Enrique Bernoldi for further aero and chassis work.

"We have had a positive test in Jerez this week, completing a lot of mileage on both days,” said Button. “We focused mainly on set-up and aero development, alongside tyre testing for Magny Cours. We also looked at reliability work with the engine which was excellent. Overall it was a good positive test before we travel to France for the next race."

Team mate Takuma Sato had a more troubled final day, but nevertheless finished seventh in the order. The Japanese driver was hampered by brake and engine problems in the morning. He passed the car, with a fresh V10, to Anthony Davidson, who continued BAR’s set-up programme in the afternoon.

"With only two tests remaining until September, our programme has naturally been quite comprehensive,” explained Mark Ellis, BAR’s chief test engineer. “Following competitive performances at recent race events, everyone at BAR Honda is pushing hard to get further improvements on the car. We are pleased with the results from our aero tests and have worked hard with the chassis to improve our race balance.

“Despite an unusual failure of one of the development engines today, the new engine specification for Magny Cours looks to be a positive improvement. We have also had success with several drivetrain developments that may feature at races later in the year."

McLaren were certainly the strongest-looking team at Jerez, topping the timesheets on all three days. Friday saw Raikkonen in front as he continued a suspension programme started by Juan Pablo Montoya earlier in the week, while Pedro de la Rosa went eighth as he stepped in for Alexander Wurz, who pulled out of the session on Thursday with a trapped nerve.

"I flew back from the USA, was at the McLaren Technology Centre yesterday and then got the call to fly out to Jerez to take over the on-track work from Alex!” said de la Rosa. “It has been a busy day, and we have been able to do more than 400km for our Michelin tyre development work for the French Grand Prix despite the fact that we had to change the engine this morning."

After two difficult days, Renault’s finally had a trouble-free session, with Fernando Alonso and Franck Montagny looking quietly confident in third and sixth places respectively, both helping the team determine tyre choice for the French Grand Prix.

“We had a productive day that allowed us to complete preparations for Magny-Cours, while also working on chassis development programmes, and notably braking,” said chief test engineer, Christian Silk. “The cars ran without problems which meant we were able to beat the 1000 km mark with our two cars today.”

Felipe Massa took over from Jacques Villeneuve at Sauber and brought the team up the order into fourth place. "In the morning we further tested new aerodynamic parts and the new front wing which we brought here to evaluate worked well," explained test engineer, Paul Russell.

“Later we concentrated on long-runs to choose tyre options for Magny-Cours and achieved competitive lap times. We believe that we could set a good basis for the final tyre choice for the French Grand Prix. Overall, it was a decent test this week with good results and we were able to complete our programme as scheduled."

With Toyota still confident that Ralf Schumacher will be back in the car at Magny-Cours following his Indy accident, Jarno Trulli arrived to join Ricardo Zonta, taking over from Olivier Panis. The Italian was fifth fastest.

“I was running just the single day and so I had a big programme of performance evaluation on the Magny Cours tyres to do,” he said. “It was very intensive and I completed more than 100 laps. We had no technical problems, I finished the work and I am quite optimistic for the French Grand Prix.”

Antonio Pizzonia and Nick Heidfeld completed Williams’ two-day test in ninth and tenth, both focussing on development of ‘Mark 2’ bodywork for the FW27 in preparation for the French race.

"The Jerez test was a productive one for the team with the focus being on the new aerodynamic parts for Magny-Cours,” confirmed Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director. “From our perspective, it was important to test the bodywork's thermal influences. Because we concentrated on the bodywork evaluation, we had a limited programme in terms of engine development, the work we did do concentrated on the car's traction control."

Red Bull completed the Friday line-up at Jerez, ensuring all seven Michelin teams were present at the Spanish circuit. David Coulthard was the quickest of their three drivers, outpacing Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed, the latter getting another test outing following his Friday appearances in Montreal and Indianapolis.

Unofficial Friday times from Jerez:
1. Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (Michelin), 1:17.098
2. Jenson Button, BAR (Michelin), 1:17.135
3. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:17.186
4. Felipe Massa, Sauber (Michelin), 1:17.376
5. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Michelin), 1:17.450
6. Franck Montagny, Renault (Michelin), 1:17.544
7. Takuma Sato, BAR (Michelin), 1:17.552
8. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:17.683
9. Antonio Pizzonia, Williams (Michelin), 1:17.937
10. Nick Heidfeld, Williams (Michelin), 1:18.091
11. Enrique Bernoldi, BAR (Michelin), 1:18.561
12. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:18.616
13. Anthony Davidson, BAR (Michelin), 1:18.655
14. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Michelin), 1:18.660
15. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:18.869
16. Scott Speed, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:19.888