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Ferrari fastest with V10 16 Feb 2006

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari talks to Ferrari engineers. Formula One Testing, Barcelona, Spain, 23-27 January 2006. World ©  Capilitan/Sutton

Felipe Massa switched to the Ferrari F2004 with 3-litre restricted V10 engine, and like team-mate Luca Badoer the previous day set the pace in Bahrain testing yesterday.

Massa’s speed – a lap of 1m 30.039s - was a fillip for the Scuderia, as Michael Schumacher’s return to the cockpit of the new 248 F1 was interrupted by mechanical problems that stopped him running at the end of the morning session and thus restricted him to six short runs which totalled only 37 laps. The former champion lapped in 1m 32.228s. Both drivers worked on tyre testing, set-up development and electronics, and will continue their programmes today.

For the second consecutive day, the fastest 2006 cars were the Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, with respective times of 1m 31.278s and 1m 31.640s. Between them, they racked up 242 laps as once again the Honda RA106 proved highly reliable.

Swiss GP2 and A1GP race winner, Neel Jani, had his first 2006 run for Scuderia Toro Rosso, using the RB1 driven previously this week by Scott Speed and Tonio Liuzzi. "Until today, I only had a thousand F1 kilometres under my belt, some of it dating back to 2004," said Jani, who was delighted with the car’s reliability yesterday. "So today, I was getting used to the speed and the braking power and especially the cornering - at first you think the car can't go through the turn at that speed, but you have to tell yourself it does…and it does! I really enjoyed myself and look forward to my next test in Imola."

STR’s programme was intended primarily to get Jani used to the car. "We sent him out on track with the set-up we had established over the past two days," said team principal Franz Tost. "After a while, we started making small changes to the aero settings, the ride height and weight distribution, so that Neel could feel the effect of these changes. He did a good job today."

Tomorrow is the final day in Bahrain. Speed will return to cockpit duty in the morning, Liuzzi in the afternoon.

The high ambient temperature provided the three teams with the information they had anticipated in preparation for next month’s Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix at the Sakhir Circuit. Hisao Suganuma, Bridgestone’s technical manager, said: "With the new season under way in under one month here, we are finalizing our preparations and still need to test compounds and construction. It is far better to test at the venue of the first race rather than in Europe, particularly as it is so cold and last year's track temperatures were 50 degrees.

"I have spoken with local Bahrainis and they think that today's temperature - 35 degrees – is closer to what we will get this year, as the race is a month earlier. Possibly 40 degrees. Even more importantly the information we are building here means that we can also predict the tyre specifications for the second race in Malaysia and it is vital to have this information as early as possible."

Unofficial practice times:
1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2004 (Bridgestone) 1:30.039s
2. Jenson Button, Honda RA106 (Michelin) 1:31.278s
3. Rubens Barrichello, Honda RA106 (Michelin) 1:31.640s
4. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari 248 F1 (Bridgestone) 1:32.228s
5. Neel Jani, STR RB1 (Michelin) 1:33.059s.