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Jerez day one - Schumacher sets standard 11 Jan 2006

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2005. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 10 January 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 10 January 2006. World © Hartley/Sutton Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R26. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 10 January 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 10 January 2006. World ©  Hartley/Sutton  Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 10 January 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton

Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher was the comfortable leader as the first test session of 2006 got underway at Jerez on Tuesday. Schumacher, at the wheel of a V8-powered F2004, lapped the Spanish circuit more than a second faster than his nearest challenger, Toyota’s Ricardo Zonta.

The session got off to a slow start thanks to low morning temperatures, but once underway it was Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella in the spotlight as he gave the new R26 its track debut. He completed 41 laps as he ran through the inevitable systems checks, the car’s new RS26 V8 engine running without a problem. The Italian was sixth fastest, while team mate Fernando Alonso, carrying out brake development in last year’s R25, was fourth.

At the top of the times, Schumacher’s programme focussed on Ferrari’s 2006 engine, the former champion covering 83 laps, despite an off-track excursion leaving his car beached in the gravel at one point. Working alongside him was Luca Badoer, who completed 64 laps of Bridgestone tyre work at the wheel of an F2005 fitted with a power-regulated V10 engine. The Italian test driver was fifth fastest.

Zonta’s second place came despite an early spin, the Brazilian beginning a long tyre programme with Toyota’s new tyre partners, Bridgestone. Both Zonta and Ralf Schumacher, third fastest, were in the 2006 Toyota TF106, with Ralf concentrating on chassis development.

"We lost a couple of hours at the beginning of the day because the temperatures were too cold and the track was a little dirty but by lunch time conditions were good enough to get on with the job,” explained Zonta.

“We did some set-up work and some electronic tuning as well, helping to understand new software, and in the afternoon we started the tyre programme. There were new constructions to work with from Bridgestone and I felt that they were positive. I felt a good improvement until I made a small mistake at Turn 8 and went into the gravel. I was able to go back out and complete the programme. Everything is improving at every test."

After its preliminary two-day shakedown at Silverstone in December, the new Red Bull RB2 was back in action as the Austrian-owned team began their four-day programme. It was not without incident - David Coulthard completed just 31 laps after losing track time through an electrical fault that left the car stranded out on the track.

"It was something of a scrappy day," said Red Bull’s technical director Mark Smith. "Our priority had been to see if we had solved the cooling problem we encountered at Silverstone and the short answer is that we have not. However, it did not prevent us from running. We went for the short term fix of additional holes in the bodywork, and we were able to begin work on seeing how the new car reacts to set-up changes, while also embarking on a tyre test programme that takes into account the fact we will once again be able to change tyres during the races this season."

Testing continues at Jerez on Wednesday, when further teams including Williams and BMW Sauber are due to join the session.

Unofficial Tuesday times from Jerez:
1. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:18.018
2. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:19.348
3. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:19.886
4. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.920
5. Luca Badoer, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:20.048
6. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:20.554
7. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:21.986