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Valencia day two - Alonso and Rossi sparkle 02 Feb 2006

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault. Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 10 January 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton

World champion Fernando Alonso put in an impressive testing performance on Wednesday to top the times at Valencia, delighting the thousands of Spanish fans who turned out to support him.

Despite a technical glitch with the new R26 keeping Alonso off track for most of the morning, he eventually completed 49 laps to finish just over a tenth clear of Honda’s Jenson Button. Renault tester Heikki Kovalainen was sixth on his first outing in the team’s 2006 car.

"We had a good day today, in spite of the electrical problem,” reported Alonso. “It was not really serious, and in one sense, it allowed us to wait for the track conditions to improve because the circuit was damp this morning. We spent the afternoon working on tyre development with Michelin, and we were pleased with how the car performed on the tyres."

With the track still damp in the morning, at Honda Button ran an aero programme on intermediate tyres in the new RA106, before both he and team mate Rubens Barrichello, fifth fastest, switched to dry tyre evaluation in the afternoon.

Michael Schumacher was third quickest in the new Ferrari 248 F1, but again the scarlet car in the spotlight was the F2004 of Valentino Rossi. After his inauspicious start on Tuesday, when his sole lap ended in the gravel, the MotoGP champion had a much improved session, completing over 50 laps and finishing a convincing 11th from 15 drivers.

Juan Pablo Montoya lifted McLaren to fourth in the timesheets, as he stepped in to replace team mate Kimi Raikkonen, who was suffering from a heavy cold. Montoya focussed on long runs and set-up in the MP4-21, while test driver Gary Paffett worked on tyres in the interim V10 MP4-21.

Toyota joined the session with Jarno Trulli and Ricardo, who went seventh and eighth quickest respectively. “It was the first time we have run here with the 2006 package, so it was a complicated day of work,” explained Zonta. “It was a cold, damp start but we still put in some useful work on different types of tyre, along with set-up and electronics. We continued that work in the afternoon and the car stayed reliable so we were able to put in a lot of laps. But it was a difficult day because the track was slippery all day, even in the dry.”

Jacques Villeneuve was ninth in the latest BMW Sauber F1.06, as he carried out set-up work and evaluation of new aerodynamic parts. The Canadian also did some starts and tested intermediate tyres for Michelin. The team’s test driver Robert Kubica was 15th, focussing on tyres in the interim C24B.

David Coulthard completed just 36 laps in the Red Bull RB2 after the team lost the last two hours of running when they realised an engine change was needed. The V8 was near the end of its working life and was scheduled to be changed in the evening anyway. Coulthard finished 10th.

Completing the Wednesday line-up were Williams’ Alexander Wurz and Mark Webber in 12th and 14th respectively. Both had somewhat problematic sessions.

“This morning's running was wet and although Mark managed to put more mileage on the FW28 we had to stop mid afternoon with a known gearbox problem,” explained technical director Sam Michael. “Alex was undertaking some tyre testing for Bridgestone in the FW27C and also stopped mid afternoon with a fuel pump failure.”

Testing continues at Valencia on Thursday.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Valencia:
1. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:11.200
2. Jenson Button, Honda (Michelin), 1:11.327
3. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:11.814
4. Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren (Michelin), 1:11.978
5. Rubens Barrichello, Honda (Michelin), 1:12.062
6. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:12.122
7. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:12.143
8. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:12.385
9. Jacques Villeneuve, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:12.622
10. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:12.840
11. Valentino Rossi, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:12.851
12. Alexander Wurz, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:12.925
13. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:12.937
14. Mark Webber, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:13.050
15. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:13.353