McLaren lay down the gauntlet for Monza supremacy
McLarens Juan Pablo Montoya became the first man to lap Monza in under 80 seconds on Tuesday, setting a new unofficial lap record for the circuit. Montoyas time of 1m 19.880s put him a second clear of nearest rival Fernando Alonso, as eight Formula One teams tested in preparation for the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix.
The timesheets were dominated by McLaren and Renault, the championship rivals filling the top six places. McLaren began their two-day programme, focussed on race distances, with Alexander Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa running in the morning with a Monza-specific, low-downforce aero package.
The test drivers handed over to Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen for the afternoon session, but while the Colombian completed 50 laps, a gearbox problem and numerous red-light stoppages meant the Finn managed just six. The two team mates will complete McLarens programme on Thursday.
Renault had a productive first day, with Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella running close to 200 laps between them to finish second and third respectively. Neither experienced any problems as they worked on set-up and tyre selection programmes for next weekends Italian race.
We had a very good day's testing, with some encouraging results and excellent reliability, said Renaults chief test engineer, Christian Silk. It is always difficult coming to Monza on the first day, as the drivers need some time to adapt to the low downforce configurations and the circuit is often quite dirty. However, Fernando and Giancarlo both settled in quickly and we were able to complete plenty of set-up work before beginning our evaluation of tyre compounds and constructions for the race weekend.
The first non-blue or silver car was the Toyota of Ricardo Zonta, who drove well over 100 laps in the TF105 on his way to seventh place. The Brazilian was joined by fellow tester Olivier Panis, who continued development of the teams 2006-spec V8 engine. The Frenchman was around five seconds off Zontas pace. Ralf Schumacher was also in action, but technical problems and a minor off meant the German ran just seven laps and failed to set a time.
David Coulthard was the quicker of the two Red Bull drivers, eighth to Tonio Liuzzis 14th, while at Ferrari, test driver Luca Badoer just shaded 2006 race driver, Felipe Massa, who completed his second and final day of the week with the team. Badoer was the days busiest driver, putting in 130 laps of tyre and set-up work. Massa, who hands over to Michael Schumacher for Thursdays session, did 91.
Williams spent their first day at Monza analysing potential causes of the right-rear tyre failures they suffered in Turkey. The tyres themselves and the Istanbul kerbs have been ruled out - bodywork making contact with the tyre has not - and the team will be making a number of changes to prevent a recurrence. In the meantime, Mark Webber was 11th fastest, two places up on test driver and GP2 star, Nico Rosberg.
Splitting the Williams was the Sauber of Jacques Villeneuve, who ran just under 100 laps on his was to 12th. "Today we have worked a lot on the aerodynamic side but also on the set-up for Monza, explained test engineer Paul Russell. The test was going quite well and without technical problems, and we were able to assess all different configurations which we had planned to check.
"Tomorrow we will confirm the aerodynamic configuration for the next race and further work on the set-up for Jacques' car. We have also planned to start the tyre selection for Monza, and by the end of the day we should be able to finalise the race specification for Jacques. On Friday Felipe will continue the tyre programme, and by comparing both drivers' evaluations we will make our tyre choice."
Jordan completed the Wednesday line-up, with Tiago Monteiro at the wheel of the revised EJ15B, which the team hope might finally make its race debut at Monza. The Portuguese driver was the slowest V10 runner, finishing the day around 1.5s down on Liuzzis Red Bull.
BAR chose to sit out Wednesdays session. They and Minardi will begin two-day programmes on Thursday.
Unofficial Wednesday times from Monza:
1. Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren (Michelin), 1:19.880
2. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:20.860
3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:21.318
4. Alexander Wurz, McLaren (Michelin), 1:21.697
5. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:21.912
6. Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (Michelin), 1:21.971
7. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Michelin), 1:21.995
8. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:21.997
9. Luca Badoer, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:22.313
10. Felipe Massa, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:22.420
11. Mark Webber, Williams (Michelin), 1:22.491
12. Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber (Michelin), 1:22.891
13.Nico Rosberg, Williams (Michelin), 1:22.951
14. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:23.188
15. Tiago Monteiro, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:24.678
16. Olivier Panis, Toyota (V8) (Michelin), 1:27.984
17. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Michelin), no time