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Barcelona day three - Ferrari lead again 26 Jan 2006

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari. Formula One Testing, Barcelona, Spain, 23-27 January 2006. World ©  Capilitan/Sutton

It was Felipe Massa’s turn to top the times in Barcelona on Wednesday as once again Ferrari’s interim 2004 machine out-paced its 2006 opposition. Team mate Michael Schumacher will join the test with the new 248 F1 on Thursday.

The start of the session was dominated by the weather, with fog and cold temperatures seeing the track closed during the early part of the morning. Testing eventually began in earnest shortly after 11am.

Renault’s R26 was the quickest 2006 machine, with Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella going second and fifth respectively. Both men focussed on getting additional mileage on the new car and its RS26 V8 engine, in addition to Michelin tyre work.

"I did 94 laps today, which is very good for a new car,” reported Alonso. “The important thing for this early stage is that we had no mechanical problems, so I am quite happy with our results so far. I was still experimenting a bit today because this is the first time I have driven at Barcelona with the V8, so you need some time to get used to the different driving style. The car is easy to drive here as well, and my feeling so far is very good."

Honda had a successful first session with their new RA106, which was launched at the circuit in the morning. The car - the team had two chassis present - proved to be quick and reliable, with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello stacking up over 130 laps between them, to go third and fourth fastest respectively.

“It’s been a good first day with the RA106,” said Button. “I’m happy with the way the car feels and it’s definitely a step forward from last year, we just don’t know how much yet. I’m now looking forward to tomorrow when we can get started on some proper testing.”

Honda technical director Geoffrey Willis was equally happy with their progress: “It’s been a very encouraging start. We began the day with two RA106s pulling out of the garage, which is an incredible achievement for us. The cars performed well; it was pretty cold in the morning which limited our running however we did a good number of laps throughout the day with no problems and some competitive times. We’ve got plenty of work to do over the next few weeks but it’s been a positive first day.”

Nick Heidfeld was back behind the wheel of the new BMW Sauber F1.06, the German setting another convincing time in sixth spot as he continued set-up and aero work. Joining him was Polish third driver Robert Kubica, who finished bottom of the timesheets on his first outing in the team’s interim car.

“Today a dream became true for me,” said Kubica. “Everything is new and exciting, I’m really happy to drive for the BMW Sauber F1 Team. I took it easy today, it’s just the beginning and I have a lot to learn. It’s fun to drive in a Formula One car on the Barcelona track with its fast corners where you can really feel the G forces.”

Toyota began a three-day programme with Jarno Trulli seventh and Olivier Panis eighth. Both drivers were concentrating on Bridgestone tyre work, running a mixture of casing and compound tests. After 93 laps, Panis was particularly upbeat about the team’s prospects for the coming season.

“I think that this car is a very good base,” he said. “The balance is strong with the front and rear working in harmony and the chassis feels nicely stiff. All we are awaiting now is the new aerodynamic kit before Bahrain. That will be an important step and when you take it into account I think we are performing very well compared with everyone else. I think we are there. I feel very positive, more so than last year. The car just feels better 'connected' and everyone in the team seems together and quietly confident.”

McLaren had a low-key day, with Juan Pablo Montoya ninth in the MP4-21 and Gary Paffett 12th in the interim MP4-20. Kimi Raikkonen will get his first taste of the new car on Thursday when he and Pedro de la Rosa take over the team’s programme.

In tenth spot was David Coulthard at the wheel of the Red Bull RB2. The Scot ran 70 laps, the team achieving what technical director Mark Smith described as signs of ‘encouraging progress’.

"We began by running some engine mapping tests," said Smith. "The bulk of the day's workload was given over to evaluating aero development parts. We also ran some different types of tyre, but the need for consistency for the aero work meant we did not run an actual tyre test programme."

Red Bull’s sister team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, commenced their two-day programme with Scott Speed on driving duty. Work centred on set-up, as Speed and his engineers concentrated on an aero programme, assessing different ride heights and front and rear wing settings, on their way to finding a satisfactory balance for the car.

"Apart from being happy with the work we got through today, I am also pleased with Scott's performance, as it is clear that he has really stepped up his fitness levels in recent weeks," commented team manager, Massimo Rivola. "It was also encouraging to see how the team is shaping up. We have plenty of new young guys, the ‘Young Toros’ as we call them, who are new to the team and it was obvious that they are really motivated to do a good job."

Testing continues at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Barcelona:
1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:15.679
2. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:16.200
3. Jenson Button, Honda (Michelin), 1:16.543
4. Rubens Barrichello, Honda (Michelin), 1:16.704
5. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:16.728
6. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:17.036
7. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:17.060
8. Olivier Panis, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:17.420
9. Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren (Michelin), 1:17.482
10. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:17.582
11. Scott Speed, Toro Rosso (Michelin), 1:18.092
12. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:18.246
13. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:20.042