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Jerez day three - McLaren hybrid leads 10 Feb 2006

Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren Mercedes test driver. Formula 1 Testing, Jerez, Spain, 7-10 February 2006. World ©  Capilitan/Sutton

Pedro de la Rosa topped the times at Jerez on Thursday at the wheel of McLaren’s interim V10 machine. Once again, the quickest 2006 car proved to be a Renault, that of Giancarlo Fisichella.

De la Rosa, charged with Michelin tyre work in the older McLaren, was the busiest man on track, completing a mammoth 124 laps. In contrast, Kimi Raikkonen in the new MP4-21 managed only 41, the Finn confined to the garage throughout the afternoon due to gearbox problems and an engine oil leak.

With Renault still waiting for replacement rear-wing parts following their problem on Wednesday, Fisichella alternated track time in a single R26 with test driver Heikki Kovalainen. Nevertheless, the pair totaled over 120 laps between them, with Kovalainen seventh to Fisichella’s second.

Mark Webber put Williams an impressive third in the order, but team mate Nico Rosberg was left down in eighth after some technical issues with his FW28 car. Both men focused on tyres and set-up.

“We had a problem with the steering rack hydraulics on Nico's car in the morning, which, unfortunately, delayed the programme while we changed it,” explained Williams’ technical director Sam Michael. “Otherwise, we are making steady progress on reliability and set-up items. Tomorrow, Mark and Alex (Wurz) will be driving and will conclude the Jerez test.”

Honda concluded their three-day session with a single RA106, Jenson Button driving it to fourth in the times. He began with some early set-up work before completing a tyre evaluation over long runs in the afternoon. He completed a total of 119 laps, running the car’s V8 engine to its target mileage.

"Despite a difficult day on Wednesday, this has been another positive test for us,” reported chief engineer Mark Ellis. “The pace of the RA106 has again been very encouraging and the car has been extremely reliable despite a couple of small issues. We are looking forward to next week's four-day test in Bahrain where we can fully evaluate the latest tyre developments from Michelin in realistic conditions and start our real preparations for the opening races."

The BMW Saubers of Jacques Villeneuve and Nick Heidfeld were fifth and sixth fastest. Both drivers were forced to cut short their programmes, Heidfeld due to a fuel system problem, Villeneuve because of cooling system damage caused by debris on the track.

Toyota were tenth and 11th as the Japanese team wound up their three days at Jerez. Both Jarno Trulli and team mate Ralf Schumacher were pleased with progress, despite not threatening the upper end of the timesheets.

"At the moment we are pretty happy about the behaviour of the car,” said Trulli. “Compared to the others we are not that quick but we know very well that we are going to get a major aerodynamic step next week. We have done good, solid winter testing, especially on the development of the tyres because the switch from one tyre manufacturer to another was our biggest technical challenge. Understanding the best way to run the Bridgestones and which compounds and constructions best suit our car has been quite a complicated process and there is still work to be done, although we have done the major part of the job."

Vitantonio Liuzzi gave Toro Rosso’s new STR01 its track debut, completing 79 laps in the restricted Cosworth V10 machine. The car broke down just once, but the fault was traced to an electrical fault and was quickly repaired.

"Finally, the new baby is out," declared Liuzzi. "Now I feel that we are really on course for the 2006 season. Everything went well and the car ran pretty reliably. Of course, with a new car there is still quite a lot to do with set-up and the engine definitely felt different. It makes a strange noise, has less power and the power band is in a different place to what I had been used to."

Completing the Thursday timesheets were MF1’s Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro. The Midland team mates alternated between the interim EJ15B and the new M16 car, carrying out further systems checks plus set-up and tyre work.

“I spent the first half of today in the new car and I am pleased that we are making good progress,” said Albers. “I have now driven both cars and I am still positive about the changes that have been made over the winter. I am still looking forward to the start of the season and getting as much as possible out of the new car before then.”

Testing continues at Jerez on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday times from Jerez:
1. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:17.454
2. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:17.483
3. Mark Webber, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:17.767
4. Jenson Button, Honda (Michelin), 1:17.960
5. Jacques Villeneuve, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:18.207
6. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:18.271
7. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:18.555
8. Nico Rosberg, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:18.843
9. Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (Michelin), 1:18.933
10. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:19.083
11. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:19.320
12. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso (Michelin), 1:19.394
13. Christijan Albers, MF1 (Bridgestone), 1:20.670
14. Tiago Monteiro, MF1 (Bridgestone), 1:20.900