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Jerez day three - Barrichello stars 13 Jan 2006

Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda F1 Racing. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 12 January 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton Gary Paffett (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/20 which has new livery for this test. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 11 January 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R26. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 10 January 2006. World ©  Hartley/Sutton Honda F1 Racing Team logo. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 12 January 2006. World © Hartley/Sutton Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 12 January 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton

Rubens Barrichello made a fine start to his Honda career by topping the timesheets at Jerez on Thursday. In his very first test with his new team, Barrichello narrowly outpaced McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa, both men at the wheel of V10 machines.

Barrichello spent most of the day in Honda’s 2005 car, successfully concluding their V10 engine programme. Then in the afternoon the Brazilian got a taste of the team’s V8 engine ahead of his first full day in the interim car on Friday.

At McLaren, de la Rosa and Gary Paffett concentrated on Michelin tyre work. Paffett, also in a V10 MP4-20B, finished the day 11th, nine places down on his Spanish team mate, who suffered an engine failure just before the end of the session.

Marc Gene was the quickest V8 runner in third as he took over Ferrari’s programme from Michael Schumacher and Luca Badoer. The Spaniard had two cars at his disposal - the V8-powered F2004 in which he set his best time, and an F2005 fitted with a power-regulated V10, which proved to be around two seconds slower.

World champion Fernando Alonso had his first test in Renault’s 2006 car, the R26, but only after sitting out the morning session to receive treatment on a muscular pain. During that time team mate Giancarlo Fisichella continued work in the new car. Once Alonso did get in it, he went a promising fourth fastest.

“The biggest encouragement is that today felt like a normal day's testing, even though the car is only three days old,” explained chief test engineer Christian Silk. “Everything went very smoothly and the reliability already seems to be strong, although of course we will continue to work to improve every area. Our priority with the R26 was once again to put miles on the package, and we had a good day from that point of view as we completed longer runs in the afternoon.”

Mark Webber was back in action for Williams, the Australian going fifth fastest, with team mate Nico Rosberg seventh. Both men were at the wheel of the team’s dark blue liveried interim car, powered by Cosworth’s latest V8.

“Both drivers had a productive morning working through various se-up changes and aero tests,” explained technical director Sam Michael. “This afternoon, we experienced some gearbox problems that are minor in terms of the solution required, but they caused us to lose track time in the afternoon.”

Toyota completed their Jerez programme with Ricardo Zonta sixth and Jarno Trulli ninth, both men in the TF106. Chassis technical director Mike Gascoyne made a flying visit to the circuit to check on progress came away happy.

"In general we have had a productive test with all three drivers,” he said. “The main focus for us at the moment is to continue the development work with Bridgestone based on what we learned before Christmas. We have found some clear directions to improve our consistency in particular. Our first lap pace has looked pretty good too, and there have been no major reliability issues. Overall it has been a rewarding three days and we look forward to continuing the progress here in Jerez next week.

“We feel that we are in a good position and pretty confident for the season. We have run our new mechanical components early and the drivers are all positive about those improvements. The latest aerodynamic parts will be brought to the car in February before the team leaves for the first race in Bahrain."

Nick Heidfeld took his V8-powered BMW Sauber to 12th as he conducted further Michelin tyre evaluations, which left Toro Rosso’s Scott Speed and Red Bull’s Christian Klien to complete the Thursday timesheets.

Toro Rosso were not entirely happy with their progress, as team principal Franz Tost explained: "Things did not go as well as yesterday. This was primarily because of several red flag periods caused by other cars. But we also lost about an hour with a fuel pressure problem while Scott was doing some set-up work, as we then had to change the fuel pump. Nevertheless Scott was able to do a reasonable number of laps and, overall, these two days have given us a good basis on which to prepare for our next test, starting on 25th January in Barcelona."

Klien, meanwhile, covered 41 laps in the new Red Bull RB2, the most it has managed in a day in its short life to date. "This morning, we had a problem with the transmission lubrication system that cost us some track time," explained the team’s head of race and test engineering, Paul Monaghan. "In the afternoon, Christian was settling in to the new car and we had made progress on the set-up front. We were hoping to validate that with a better time at the end of the session, but one of many Red Flags on the day, spoilt our plan!"

Testing continues at Jerez on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday times from Jerez:
1. Rubens Barrichello, Honda (Michelin), 1:16.712
2. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:16.733
3. Marc Gene, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:18.548
4. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:18.706
5. Mark Webber, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:18.832
6. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:18.916
7. Nico Rosberg, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:19.038
8. Anthony Davidson, Honda (Michelin), 1:19.092
9. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:19.164
10. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.462
11. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:19.605
12. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:20.164
13. Scott Speed, Toro Rosso (Michelin), 1:20.970
14. Christian Klien, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:21.469