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Valencia day three - Renault edge Honda 03 Feb 2006

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R26. Formula One Testing, Valencia, Spain, 31 January - 3 February 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton

There was little to choose between the pace of Renault’s Fernando Alonso and Honda’s Jenson Button as testing continued at Valencia in Spain on Thursday. With the session completely dry for the first time this week, it was the world champion who eventually finished in front by less than a tenth of a second.

Renault’s aim was to put more mileage on the R26 and Alonso ran a race distance, before switching his attentions to tyre testing. The team’s test driver Heikki Kovalainen was hampered by hydraulic problems as continued his acclimatisation to the new car, but successfully completed a brake programme.

Honda wrapped up their test with Button and Anthony Davidson focussing on tyre evaluation and race simulations in the RA106. An engine failure in the afternoon cut Button’s running somewhat to 85 laps, but Davidson compensated with a mammoth 126.

"We have gained a little more top power and an improved torque curve after this test,” reported Shuhei Nakamoto, engineering director with Honda Racing Development. “Our target is 100% reliability so we still have work to do in the coming weeks, but overall we have made good progress."

Ferrari had three drivers in action for their final day of the week and quickest was Felipe Massa in a V8-powered F2004. Michael Schumacher was fifth in the new 248 F1, while MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi gained another 53 laps of Formula One experience to finish 12th in the restricted-V10 F2004.

Ferrari power also took sixth in the timesheets courtesy of Christian Klien, who finished Red Bull’s programme in the RB2. It was the Austrian’s first day of dry-weather testing this year.

"The car ran reliably with no major problems," reported Red Bull’s chief test engineer, Ian Morgan. "As Christian had never driven the car in the dry, we started by just getting the set-up to his liking, before carrying out a programme centred on aero work, brake development and a Michelin tyre test."

Jacques Villeneuve was back at the wheel of the F1.06 for BMW Sauber, the former champion setting the day’s eighth-best time as he carried out tyre and set-up development. Third driver Robert Kubica continued with the interim C24B, the Pole performing solely tyre work.

Ralf Schumacher was the quickest Toyota driver in ninth place, the German outpacing Italian team mate Jarno Trulli, as both men carried out their own individual tyre programmes with Bridgestone.

The Williams of Alex Wurz and Nico Rosberg were 10th and 11th in the FW27C and FW28 respectively, while the McLarens of Pedro de la Rosa and Juan Pablo Montoya finished 13th and 14th. Tyres were de la Rosa’s focus in the V10 MP4-20, while Montoya’s programme comprised longer runs in the new MP4-21.

Testing continues at Valencia on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday times from Valencia:
1. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:10.890
2. Jenson Button, Honda (Michelin), 1:10.924
3. Felipe Massa, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:11.288
4. Anthony Davidson, Honda (Michelin), 1:11.573
5. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:11.640
6. Christian Klien, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:11.749
7. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:12.017
8. Jacques Villeneuve, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:12.178
9. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:12.182
10. Alexander Wurz, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:12.246
11. Nico Rosberg, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:12.313
12. Valentino Rossi, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:12.362
13. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:12.453
14. Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren (Michelin), 1:12.477
15. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:12.513
16. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:12.816