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Jerez day four - Alonso takes charge 16 Jan 2006

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R26. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 12 January 2006. World ©  Hartley/Sutton

Renault finished their first week’s testing with the new R26 on a high by topping the times at Jerez on Friday. Fernando Alonso was around half a second quicker than the Honda of Anthony Davidson.

With a damp track in the morning and then unstable weather conditions in the afternoon, the teams had to work around the rain. Nevertheless, Alonso managed 65 laps of the Spanish circuit, leaving Renault’s chief test engineer Christian Silk pleased with their progress.

"Our primary objective this week was to run as many laps as possible and collect the maximum amount of information with the new package, which will help us achieve the best reliability and performance at the first race,” he said. “Today was another good day, even though we lost time through red flags - although our cars didn't cause any of them!

“It was a good week, we already seem to have found reliability and the performance seems quite promising after only four days. That is a good first reward for the whole team, which has worked very hard to get where we are. We now need to carry on with that good work, and we will be back on track on 25 January in Barcelona."

At Honda, while Davidson set the pace, Rubens Barrichello completed his first week of testing with his new team. The Brazilian continued to acclimatise himself with their interim V8 car and finished the day sixth in the timesheets, behind the V10 machines of Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella and McLaren duo Gary Paffett and Pedro de la Rosa.

"It's been a fantastic time for me this week,” said Barrichello. “Everyone has been really enthusiastic and the relationship has been good so I hope that keeps going. We couldn't do as many laps today as I wished because of the weather but it's looking good. Any laps that I can get with the V8 engine prior to starting with the new car in a couple of weeks will be very very important. So I'm happy as even with only 39 laps and the experience that I have with the car, we moved forward today. I know I will be very happy here."

Nick Heidfeld was seventh fastest for BMW Sauber as they wrapped up their final test before the launch of their new car at Valencia next week. Behind him were the two Williams of Mark Webber and Alex Wurz, the latter another driver completing his first week of testing with a new team.

"For me, this was a very useful test to meet and get to know the team and to start learning their working philosophy,” said Wurz. “Although I was busy familiarising myself with the way everything operates, as well as the new engineers and technicians I am working with, we immediately started with our programme and it ended up being a positive first test for me overall.

“In particular, I was really happy with the engine power levels for my first time driving the V8 and, of course, it was my first time on Bridgestones, which have a very different sensation under cornering and 'feel' coming back through the steering wheel. I had to change my driving style a little to suit the tyre characteristics, but it was good to try the Bridgestones for the first time at a tough tyre track like Jerez."

Completing the Friday time sheets was Red Bull’s Christian Klien, whose programme came to a premature end after 24 laps when an off-track excursion left his car damaged.

With this week’s main test complete, Saturday at Jerez was given over to a Michelin wet-weather tyre test.

Unofficial Friday times from Jerez:
1. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:18.512
2. Anthony Davidson, Honda (Michelin), 1:19.152
3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.784
4. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:19.799
5. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:19.838
6. Rubens Barrichello, Honda (Michelin), 1:20.040
7. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:20.499
8. Mark Webber, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:20.507
9. Alex Wurz, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:20.925
10. Christian Klien, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:21.631