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Barcelona day four - a triple for Ferrari 27 Jan 2006

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

For the third day in succession, Ferrari’s hybrid 2004 machine topped the times at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday. Felipe Massa was at the wheel of the V8-powered car, outpacing fellow Brazilian Rubens Barrichello in the new Honda RA106.

Ferrari also resumed testing with their 2006 challenger, the 248 F1, following its launch at Mugello earlier this week. Michael Schumacher took it to a respectable eight in the timesheets after almost 80 laps in the new machine.

It was another promising day for Honda, with Jenson Button backing up Barrichello’s second place with fifth slot. Between them they added a further 148 laps of set-up and chassis development to the RA106.

Giancarlo Fisichella was third fastest and team mate Fernando Alonso sixth as the two Renault drivers completed extensive tyre programmes for Michelin. Fisichella suffered a spin after an engine ancillary problem and further technical issues curtailed his running in the late afternoon. In contrast, Alonso completed a full Grand Prix distance run - a first for the R26 - in the morning.

"The weather meant we had another slow start to the day, but when the drivers began their programme, we had another very productive day,” reported Christian Silk, the team’s chief test engineer. “Giancarlo was slightly hampered by two technical incidents, but we expect that at this time of year, early in the car's development. Both drivers are happy with the car's performance, and we made very good progress on the tyres today. It was also pleasing to see Fernando complete our first race simulation this morning, without problems."

Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica were again on track for BMW Sauber. Heidfeld was fourth fastest as he ran a set-up and tyre programme in the new F1.06, while Kubica finished 13th in the interim C24B, winning the praise of chassis technical director Willy Rampf.

"Overall, the test in Barcelona was very positive for our team,” said Rampf. “The reliability of the F1.06 is already on a good level, which enabled us to complete over 1500 kilometres with the new car during the four days. We could collect a lot of data and learned more about the set-up of the F1.06. In addition, I am very satisfied with the debut of Robert in our team. Over two days, he didn't make the smallest error, and he was able to improve constantly. On top of that he is also able to give valuable feedback to the engineers."

David Coulthard ran another 41 laps in the Red Bull RB2 on his way to seventh in the times. "Analysis of the data we acquired yesterday pointed to the need for a minor change to the mechanical set-up," explained technical director Mark Smith. "The result of this immediately proved positive and for the rest of the morning, we continued with normal set-up work. Then, from the early afternoon onwards, we began work on a tyre test programme. Generally, the last three days have shown signs of encouraging progress."

Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher were ninth and tenth respectively for Toyota, just ahead of Toro Rosso’s Vitantonio Liuzzi. A trouble-free day with no reliability issues meant that the Italian racked up an impressive 93 laps in a V10 Red Bull RB1 chassis.

"We now have a lot of data to study back in Faenza," said Toro Rosso’s chief engineer Laurent Mekies. "Today, Tonio carried out a wheel rim evaluation to help us decide which ones we will use for the coming season. We also ran an aero validation of some parts that we will use on the new car. In addition, we looked at control systems, in terms of establishing what the driver requires in terms of traction control, diff mapping and engine braking. Tonio found a reasonable balance with the car, apart from suffering a bit too much oversteer. However, the most positive lesson from the last two days is that we are really beginning to work together as a team."

Kimi Raikkonen drove McLaren’s new MP4-21 for the first time, completing 65 laps despite missing some track time due to a gearbox oil leak. The Finn was 12th fastest, two places up on team mate Pedro de la Rosa in the interim MP4-20.

"It is really good to be back testing and it is great to see what the team have done with the new car,” said Raikkonen. “Because it was my first day in the MP4-21, most of the time was spent with me getting used to it and then starting to look at different set-ups. My first impression of the car is positive, but I will need more track time to find out how great the potential really is. Also we could not run all morning because of the cold weather, but even so we put in a good number of laps and drove over 300km."

Testing continues at the Circuit de Catalunya on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday times from Barcelona:
1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:15.964
2. Rubens Barrichello, Honda (Michelin), 1:16.350
3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:16.365
4. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:16.556
5. Jenson Button, Honda (Michelin), 1:16.746
6. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:16.754
7. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:16.885
8. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:16.888
9. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:17.250
10. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:17.506
11. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso (Michelin), 1:17.600
12. Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (Michelin), 1:17.739
13. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:18.017
14. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:18.256