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Barcelona day one - slow start for Sato 22 Feb 2006

Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1. Formula 1 Testing, Barcelona, Spain, 21-24 February 2006. World © Sutton

Takuma Sato completed just ten laps in Barcelona on Tuesday as the Super Aguri team began their first official Formula One test.

Sato was hampered by hydraulic problems in the dry morning session and, after surviving a harmless afternoon spin in the wet in the afternoon, further technical difficulties forced the team to curtail their programme early. Sato, at the wheel of the interim-liveried SA05 car, finished sixth in the timesheets.

“The priority of this test was to begin track testing of the SA05 systems - including electronics, hydraulics and brakes,” explained chief technical officer Mark Preston. “Although our reliability was not great today, it is the reason why we are here, to test and sort these kinds of problems out.

“This morning’s running was cut short due to a small hydraulic problem which was soon rectified. However, in the rain-drenched afternoon, Taku spun at the hairpin, with no damage to the car, while experimenting with new traction control software. This afternoon’s running was cut short by a similar problem to the one we had this morning. We will now be working overnight and are hoping for a successful day’s running tomorrow when we start our tyre programme for Bahrain.”

The poor conditions at the Circuit de Catalunya meant none of the five teams present completed as much running as they would have liked. Williams’ Mark Webber managed a respectable 43 on his way to the fastest time of the day, a tenth of a second clear of McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen. In contrast, Webber’s team mate, Nico Rosberg, ran just 16 laps and finished bottom of the order.

McLaren had their two race drivers in action, at the wheel of the two MP4-21 chassis that will start the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix next month. The team’s programme for the week is focused on continuing long runs and set-up work. On Tuesday Raikkonen covered 270km over the course of 59 laps. During the morning, the Finn completed two 20 lap runs, evaluating different Michelin tyres on each run.

Team mate Juan Pablo Montoya completed over 100kms before a transmission issue early in the afternoon. The team were working on rectifying this until the decision was taken to end the Colombian’s running early due to a heavy fall of rain shortly afterwards. With the wet track conditions, Raikkonen ventured out only a couple of times in the afternoon to complete some practice launches.

Robert Doornbos took Red Bull to third in the times after completing 41 laps in the Ferrari-powered RB2. The team will have David Coulthard and Christian Klien in action on Wednesday, in the two cars that will be used for the Bahrain race.

"We lost track time, but it did not really affect our programme, as putting distance on the car was more of a priority than development today," explained Red Bull’s chief test engineer, Ian Morgan

"As we have done quite a bit of running in the wet already, we decided it was not really worth going out," he added. "Although we did do a couple of laps at the end of the day, just to check some new software.”

Midland had a positive day in Spain, with Tiago Monteiro claiming fourth spot in the new M16. "We had some really promising runs with the car this morning, which was encouraging, as I believe we ended up just over one second behind the quickest time of the day,” he said.

“We were preparing to begin practicing race simulations in the afternoon but unfortunately, it started to rain heavily on the out lap and we held off for a while, but finally called it a day when the rain showed no sign of letting up. In the end, we did about 60 laps - which is very close to a race distance - without any problems. The car's reliability is excellent and our pace is improving, so I am very pleased with the day's performance."

Testing continues in Barcelona on Wednesday, when further rain is forecast.

Unofficial Tuesday times from Barcelona:
1. Mark Webber, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:17.676
2. Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (Michelin), 1:17.789
3. Robert Doornbos, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:18.450
4. Tiago Monteiro, MF1 (Bridgestone), 1:18.717
5. Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren (Michelin), 1:18.875
6. Takuma Sato, Super Aguri (Bridgestone), 1:30.244
7. Nico Rosberg, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:37.198