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Jerez day four - Hamilton on form in Spain 18 Dec 2006

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mclaren MP4/21 Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain. 15 December 2006. World © Bumstead/Sutton. James Rossiter (GBR) Honda F1 test driver and Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Interim Car Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain. 15 December 2006. World © Bumstead/Sutton. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Mclaren. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, 15 December 2006. World © Patching/Sutton. Alex Wurz (AUT) Williams Toyota Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, 15 December 2006. World © Patching/Sutton. Marco Andretti (USA) Honda has his first run. Formula One Testing, Day 3, Jerez, Spain. 15 December 2006. World ©  Bumstead/Sutton.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was the quickest driver in action during testing in Jerez on Friday. Hamilton clocked a time of 1m 19.497 - just under one-tenth faster than the Renault of Heikki Kovalainen.

World champion Fernando Alonso joined Hamilton on track, a surprise addition to the McLaren test programme. Alonso, who will partner Hamilton at the team next season, was third quickest. The session was the Spaniard’s first opportunity to drive the MP4-21 and run on Bridgestone’s 2007 tyres.

"I’m pleased that I was able to drive the McLaren Formula One car earlier than expected and would like to thank Renault and Flavio Briatore for agreeing to this,” enthused Alonso. “I'm really excited about the future."

Kovalainen’s second-fastest time for Renault was another competitive result for the team. Tyre evaluation remained the Finn’s priority, although he also continued to assess the new 2007 gearbox. Giancarlo Fisichella took charge of the second Renault and ended the day in fifth.

Just one thousandth of a second quicker than Fisichella, was Honda’s James Rossiter in fourth. Rossiter was joined by IndyCar driver Marco Andretti and fellow Honda tester Christian Klien, 10th. Andretti, who was making his Formula One debut for the team, completed 68 laps and finished in 15th.

“It took me a little while to get used to the traction control and the brakes but once I got to grips with them, the times were more and more consistent,” explained Andretti. “I would like to say a big thank you to the Honda team on how professional and welcoming they have been this week, and I’m sure that they will have a good season next year.”

BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica and Ferrari’s Luca Badoer set exactly the same time to end the day tied for sixth. Kubica, was joined at the Spanish circuit by third driver Sebastian Vettel, who finished the day with the eighth-quickest time. Having completed their scheduled programme earlier in the week, BMW Sauber spent most of Friday validating the data they had already gathered.

Badoer, meanwhile, endured a much less straightforward day for Ferrari after his 248F1 suffered an engine problem towards the start of the day. Badoer was forced to end his test after just 39 laps and it was left to Marc Gene in the second car to bring the team’s planned programme to a close. Gene completed 99 laps and finished in 12th.

Toro Rosso’s Vitantonio Liuzzi switched seats for his final day at the circuit and instead tested for sister team, Red Bull. Liuzzi marked the last day of action for the team’s RB2 car with a positive result and clocked the ninth fastest time.

"Apart from the tyre work, we also carried out some testing aimed at development of next year's car, in the areas of suspension geometry and gearbox development," said Red Bull’s chief test engineer, Ian Morgan. "Now we are all looking forward to getting our hands on the new car in the New Year."

In action for Toro Rosso was Sebastien Bourdais, 13th, and race driver Scott Speed, who finished at the back of the field in 16th. After sustaining a hand injury during an off-track moment on Thursday, Speed managed to complete just 15 laps before retiring for the day.

Takuma Sato was 11th for Super Aguri during his third day of testing for the team. Sato completed 115 laps during the session as he continued to evaluate the 2007 Bridgestone tyres.

Fourteenth in the times was Alexander Wurz for Williams. “We started testing back in September with the FW28B car, which is a modified FW28A with the Toyota engine and our 2007 seamless gearbox,” explained Technical Director Sam Michael. “This car has completed over 6,500kms and no fewer than three complete on-track race simulations as part of our plan to significantly improve reliability in 2007. In addition to reliability, we have been working hard on understanding the changes in the tyres that Bridgestone are now supplying, and there are no untoward surprises.”

Friday was this year's final day of testing for all the teams. Following the mid-winter break, however, there will be plenty of testing activity, with the majority of teams expected to track debut their 2007 machines in mid to late January.

Unofficial Friday times from Jerez:
1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:19.497
2. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault, 1:19.573
3. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:19.747
4. James Rossiter, Honda, 1:19.800
5. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, 1:19.801
6. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:19.894
6. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:19.894
8. Sebastian Vettel, BMW Sauber, 1:20.081
9. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Red Bull, 1:20.191
10. Christian Klien, Honda, 1:20.450
11. Takuma Sato, Super Aguri, 1:20.854
12. Marc Gene, Ferrari, 1:21.012
13. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:21.258
14. Alexander Wurz, Williams, 1:21.370
15. Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:21.891
16. Scott Speed, Toro Rosso, 1:23.315