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Liuzzi quick in the sand 17 Feb 2006

Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR01. Formula 1 Testing, Jerez, Spain, 7-10 February 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton

Tonio Liuzzi was the talk of the Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain yesterday, after lapping his STR RB1 only a tenth of a second slower than Jenson Button’s Honda RA106.

Felipe Massa once again set the fastest time in Ferrari’s interim F2004 with restricted V10 engine, lapping in 1m 30.567s. That was a stark contrast to team-mate Michael Schumacher’s best of 1m 32.919s in the new 2006 Ferrari 248 F1, which suffered another engine problem which restricted the former champion to only 21 laps.

While Schumacher was struggling, Honda sent another message to their rivals as Button and Rubens Barrichello completed 233 laps between them. The Briton’s best was 1m 31.254s, the Brazilian’s 1m 31.590s. Both drivers reported particularly productive days. Button spent the day focusing on a tyre evaluation programme, with live pit stops in the afternoon, followed by a chassis set-up evaluation to conclude his day's running of 133 laps. Barrichello completed a second successful race simulation, together with a suspension and aero programme over 101 laps.

Liuzzi was in stunning form to split the Hondas in the morning, before team-mate Scott Speed took over the STR RB1 in the afternoon. The Italian lapped in 1m 31.381s, the American 1m 32.623s.

Liuzzi’s programme involved a race weekend simulation. "First we went through a qualifying run to get everyone used to the new system for Saturday afternoons and then we repeated it with a different strategy," said chief engineer Lauren Mekies. "Then Tonio did a couple of long runs, 20 laps each with refuelling and tyre changing pit stops. He did a fantastic job."

In the afternoon Speed ran through the same programme. "The track conditions were very different, with the wind changing direction, and it allowed us a good insight into what to do with the car if this should happen over the race weekend," continued Mekies. "Scott also did a good job and, over the four days as a whole, we completed a good mileage and the team of mechanics and engineers worked very well. We are still quite a way from where we want to be, but we are making progress."

Scuderia Toro Rosso will be back on track in Imola, just a few miles from the Faenza factory, when they resume testing next Tuesday, when Neel Jani will be back in the cockpit.

Unofficial testing times
1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2004 (Bridgestone) 1:30.567s,
2. Jenson Button, Honda RA106 (Michelin) 1: 31.254s,
3. Tonio Liuzzi, STR RB1 Cosworth (Michelin) 1:31.381s,
4. Rubens Barrichello, Honda RA106 (Michelin) 1:31.590s,
5. Scott Speed, STR RB1 Cosworth (Michelin) 1:32.623s,
6. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari 248 F1 (Bridgestone) 1:32.919s