McLaren leave rivals playing catch-up in Italy
After setting a new unofficial lap record on Wednesday, Juan Pablo Montoya went even quicker on Thursday as McLaren continued to dominate pre-Italian Grand Prix testing at Monza.
Montoya shaved another fraction of a second off his previous mark, finishing just over two tenths ahead of team mate Kimi Raikkonen to complete McLarens two-day programme. Both drivers continued Michelin tyre selection and configuration work for the Italian race and carried out some tyre evaluations for Belgium.
Renault had a mammoth day, the team completing 1600 kilometres with two cars. Giancarlo Fisichella (third fastest) completed nearly three race distances, while Fernando Alonso (seventh) was close to two and a half. The heavy workload focused on tyre and brake testing, and was designed to protect the team against the forecasted threat of rain disrupting running on Friday.
We had a big programme to run today, and it required a disciplined approach to get everything done, reported Renaults chief test engineer, Christian Silk. The bulk of our work was on tyre testing - compounds and constructions for both Monza and Spa. We also took time to conduct brake evaluation and tick this off our job list for the Grand Prix here in Monza, and also completed some set-up work for next weekend and the following race in Spa.
Mark Webber moved Williams up the order to fourth, the Australian and team mate Nick Heidfeld (11th) concentrating on set-up, aero work and tyre evaluation for the Monza race. The team also continued investigations into their mysterious tyre failures in Turkey, but have yet to release any conclusions.
BAR joined the session on Thursday, with Jenson Button immediately on the pace in fifth. Button ran 115 laps of race preparation, while team mate Takuma Sato (eighth fastest) managed 97, despite a morning gearbox problem. BAR also had young driver Adam Carroll in action, the British GP2 star finishing the day 18th in a 007 chassis set up for 2006 system development.
Michael Schumacher took over from Felipe Massa at Ferrari, the world champion going just a fraction slower than Button to finish sixth in the order. He and official tester Luca Badoer (ninth) continued with the teams programme of aero, engine and Bridgestone tyre development for the Italian Grand Prix.
The Red Bulls were again mid pack, David Couthard tenth to Christian Kliens 12th, with the Sauber of Jacques Villeneuve in 13th. "Today we finalised the race specification for Jacques' car and confirmed the aerodynamic parts for Monza, reported Sauber test engineer Paul Russell. We also started to work with Michelin on the tyre selection programme for the forthcoming Grand Prix, which we will continue with Felipe tomorrow. Apart from this Felipe will help us to validate Jacques' results from the last two days and work out a basic set-up for his car for the Italian Grand Prix."
After failing to set a time on Wednesday, Ralf Schumacher was Thursdays quickest Toyota in 14th, clocking up over 100 laps. Ricardo Zonta, in the development car Schumacher had run the previous day, was similarly unable to make the timesheets due to technical problems. Olivier Panis, again working on the teams 2006 V8, finished around eight seconds down on Schumacher.
Jordan continued development of the EJ15B with Tiago Monteiro, Nicolas Kiesa and Dutch tester Nicky Pastorelli. They were split in the timesheets by Minardi, who had Robert Doorbos in action as they began their two-day Monza programme, evaluating new aerodynamic components. Doornbos hands over to team mate Christijan Albers on Friday, when this weeks session concludes.
Unofficial Thursday times from Monza:
1. Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren (Michelin), 1:19.814
2. Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (Michelin), 1:20.074
3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:20.772
4. Mark Webber, Williams (Michelin), 1:20.972
5. Jenson Button, BAR (Michelin), 1:20.986
6. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:21.067
7. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:21.088
8. Takuma Sato, BAR (Michelin), 1:21.306
9. Luca Badoer, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:21.502
10. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:21.714
11. Nick Heidfeld, Williams (Michelin), 1:21.817
12. Christian Klien, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:21.901
13. Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber (Michelin), 1:21.924
14. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Michelin), 1:22.148
15. Tiago Monteiro, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:23.385
16. Robert Doornbos, Minardi (Bridgestone), 1:24.796
17. Nicolas Kiesa, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:24.802
18. Adam Carroll, BAR (Michelin), 1:25.099
19. Nicky Pastorelli, Jordan (Bridgestone), 1:25.902
20. Olivier Panis, Toyota (V8) (Michelin), 1:30.079
21. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Michelin), no time