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Bahrain - Honda on top 15 Feb 2006

The new Honda Racing RA106 is unveiled in Barcelona. (L to R): Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Racing, Anthony Davidson (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Test Driver, Jenson Button (GBR) Honda Racing. Formula One Testing, Barcelona, Spain, 23-27 January 2006. World ©  Capilitan/Sutton

Honda Racing started testing in Bahrain yesterday, with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello setting the pace as far as 2006-specification cars were concerned. Luca Badoer set the overall fastest time, however, in a Ferrari F2004 fitted with a restricted V10 engine.

Honda’s day ran smoothly, with Button just edging out his team-mate by only 0.036s. Button left the circuit at the end of testing to meet the Bahraini public in the F1 Frenzy Valentine’s Day autograph session in the Seef Mall in Manama.

In the F2004, Badoer was only two-tenths of a second faster than the Honda duo, while team-mate Felipe Massa, out again in the 248 F1 2006 car, was fourth, within half a second of the Hondas. Massa’s sole problem was a 360 degree spin at the end of the 320 km/h main straight. The Ferrari was undamaged.

Tonio Liuzzi’s day in the Scuderia Toro Rosso RB1 was frustrated by a gearbox problem which prevented him running until the final 90 minutes.
"Nevertheless, it was a reasonable day with signs of performance gain and general progress," reckoned Chief Engineer, Laurent Mekies. "As expected, the track was much cleaner than yesterday which allowed us to be more precise in our set-up work. Also, track temperatures were much higher today which made for a more realistic simulation of what we can expect for the race here in three weeks’ time, which is particularly relevant as far as the tyres are concerned."

Team principal Franz Tost said: "So far we are very happy with the test though. Tomorrow Neel Jani will get his first run in the car and we are all looking forward to that, then sadly Thursday is our last day here. It's sad because we really want to stay! This test, we expect, will give us an advantage over our rivals who are back in the cold in Europe. As a team it is also very important to be here now because we are approaching the very first Grand Prix for Scuderia Toro Rosso and we are really seeing the team come together here."

Martin Whitaker, general manager of the Bahrain International Circuit, said the level of interest in this year’s race is “simply staggering. The opportunity to welcome members of the public to the circuit at minimal cost was imperative to us. As we have been fortunate enough to see and hear the new Formula One cars at first hand, so too should the people of Bahrain to enjoy an exclusive preview of the kind of spectacle we can look forward to at the 2006 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix."

Unofficial testing times
1. Luca Badoer, Ferrari F2004 (Bridgestone) 1:31.225s,
2. Jenson Button, Honda RA106 (Michelin) 1:31.453s,
3. Rubens Barrichello, Honda RA106 (Michelin) 1:31.489s,
4. Felipe Massa, Ferrari 248 F1 (Bridgestone) 1:31.905s,
5. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso RB1 (Michelin) 1:32.702s,