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Paul Ricard day four - Renault again 27 Mar 2006

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault Third Driver with his girlfriend.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 11 March 2006

Renault completed a clean sweep at Paul Ricard on Friday as Heikki Kovalainen once again set the pace in the team’s third and final day of testing at the French circuit.

After overnight rain, Renault made the most of a damp track early in the day to evaluate chassis and engine set-ups in the semi-wet conditions. Once the circuit was useable with dry tyres, Kovalainen focused on set-up development, and continued with tyre evaluation for Michelin. His lap total for the day was 92.

"We only ran with one car this week, but that allowed us to really focus our programme and get a lot done,” reported Christian Silk, Renault’s chief test engineer. “Heikki has had a very successful test and obtained a lot of good results on set-up directions and tyres. The reliability has been generally excellent, and we have unearthed a few small problems that we can now help the race team avoid. In a week when other teams have been hampered by poor conditions elsewhere in Europe, we have been lucky with the weather, and made the most of our three days' work."

McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa was just a tenth slower than Kovalainen. Neither he nor team mate Gary Paffett (again in the team’s V10 machine) took to the track until after lunch. Both worked on chassis developments, running 98 and 61 laps respectively.

"We have had a really positive test this week at Paul Ricard, with reliable running on all four days,” said de la Rosa. “This has enabled us to put significant mileage onto chassis 4 of MP4-21 and the Mercedes-Benz V8 engine, as we worked through the various development programmes with the car. There have been a few problems with the weather on Tuesday and this morning, but it did not affect my programme too badly, as I was able to continue putting in the miles. My total kilometres for the week is 2,207, and I was able to complete two Grands Prix distances on each of the first three days."

Nick Heidfeld took third in the times for BMW Sauber. The German was by far the busiest man of the day, his lap tally an impressive 192. In the morning, he ran an intermediate tyre programme and confirmed the team’s tyre information for the Imola race in April. Later he gathered aero test data, and worked on brake and cooling system checks.

The two Toyotas were again to be found at the foot of the timesheets, with Ricardo Zonta fifth after 139 laps and Olivier Panis sixth after 110. In the afternoon, both drivers were able to finish some long runs on the newer tyre compounds supplied by Bridgestone. This completed the Japanese team’s three-day programme, during which they worked extensively on tyres, testing both new constructions and compounds, as well as performing set-up evaluations in preparation for the Australian Grand Prix.

“I did three long runs in the morning and another three in the afternoon because the track temperature changed over the day, and therefore we repeated the test,” explained Zonta. “This was very important for Melbourne because we will make the tyre decision for this race based on these runs. I feel this test has brought encouraging results, nevertheless the team will push forward and continue to work on finding the best solutions for the coming races."

The next major Formula One tests take place at Paul Ricard and at Vallelunga in Italy in the week following the Australian Grand Prix.

Unofficial Friday times from Paul Ricard:
1. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:05.287
2. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:05.381
3. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:05.630
4. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:05.709
5. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:06.949
6. Olivier Panis, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:07.851