Paul Ricard day two - Renault ahead 23 Mar 2006
Following their solo run on Tuesday, McLaren were joined by three more teams at Paul Ricard on Wednesday, as testing continued at the French circuit. Quickest time of the session went Renaults third driver, Heikki Kovalainen.
Kovalainen completed 161 laps as Renault turned their attentions to the forthcoming European races at the start of their three-day test. The Finn carried out a major tyre development programme for suppliers Michelin and his best time of 1m 04.466s put him four tenths clear of McLarens Pedro de la Rosa.
"After overnight rain, the poor track conditions this morning meant we couldn't begin our programme immediately, so we began by completing some basic checks with this brand new chassis, explained Renaults chief test engineer Christian Silk.
As soon as the track had improved enough, we worked on tyre development and chassis set-up. I think we found some good directions, and we need to check these tomorrow before recommending them to the race team. The car ran very well today, and we found a good balance straight away. It was certainly a very positive day for the team."
At McLaren, de la Rosa focussed on putting more mileage on the new MP4-21 chassis which he shook down on Tuesday. The Spaniard completed a number of short-to-medium length runs as part of a Michelin tyre programme and also tested some development components which are scheduled to make their race debut at the next round in Melbourne. He was the busiest man of the day, completing 169 laps.
Having sat out Tuesdays session due to the poor weather, McLarens other tester Gary Paffett began his Michelin development programme in the teams V10-powered MP4-20. His focus was on tyre selection for the forthcoming Australian and San Marino Grands Prix. He put in 71 laps during the eight-hour session, and ended the day fourth on the timesheets.
Polish driver Robert Kubica was third fastest for BMW Sauber after 144 laps. His schedule included set-up, tyre and aero work, plus a long run to gain specific data on the F1.06s cooling characteristics. He hands over to Nick Heidfeld on Thursday.
Toyota had two drivers in action, Ricardo Zonta and Ralf Schumacher filling the final two places on the timesheets. The Japanese team were concentrating on tyres for the Australian race and the way the TF106 car interacts with its Bridgestone rubber. After waiting for the track to warm, Zonta went on to rack up 79 laps, but some electronic problems for Schumacher limited him to 40.
"We did some construction tests today to see that we get a good temperature in the tyres with different set-ups on the car, reported Gerd Pfeiffer, Toyotas test team manager. We have found some interesting results and we will continue to work on this for the next two days. We have decided to change the driver line-up for tomorrow, exchanging Ralf with Jarno (Trulli), as we are anticipating bad weather on Friday and this will give Jarno an equal opportunity to put in some good running."
All the teams ran on Paul Ricards 3.8 kilometre 3E SC configuration and will continue to do so for the rest of the week.
Unofficial Wednesday times from Paul Ricard:
1. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:04.466
2. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:04.866
3. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:04.970
4. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:05.874
5. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:06.311
6. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:07.060