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Paul Ricard day two - competition hots up 07 Apr 2006

Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice, Sepang, Malaysia, 17 March 2006

Five teams, but less than a second between them in the times. That was the outcome of Thursday’s Formula One test session at Paul Ricard in France, emphasising just how competitive the 2006 season is set to become.

Five hundredths of a second split the top four runners, first of which was McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa, who continued with front suspension and set-up work on the MP4-21. The Spaniard was closely followed by Robert Doorbos in the Red Bull. Doornbos was partnered by Vitantonio Liuzzi, whose services were lent by sister team Toro Rosso for the day.

"Our programme centred on European GP tyre choice, testing of new aero and chassis parts and durability runs," explained Red Bull’s Chief Test Engineer, Ian Morgan. "Robert gave new chassis 05 its first shakedown today, while Tonio concentrated on longer runs to evaluate tyre durability. It's been a good test, as we got a lot of miles under our belt, went through our entire planned programme and found some performance."

Wednesday’s leader, Heikki Kovalainen, was third fastest, despite only completing 11 laps. The Finn’s Renault programme was delayed as he sat out the morning session waiting for the team to finish preparing his car. In contrast, team mate Giancarlo Fisichella managed 104 laps of set-up and tyre work on his way to fifth in the times.

“We’ve had a good day with Fisichella who quickly felt at ease in the car,” reported Christian Silk, Renault’s chief test engineer. “We were very productive this morning and our programme was mainly focused on chassis set up. During the afternoon, we completed an interesting tyre programme with Michelin which should be important for Imola. Our results of the day were very positive.”

Splitting the two Renaults was the interim McLaren MP4-20 of Gary Paffett, while the quickest Toyota was that of Ricardo Zonta in sixth place. The Brazilian concentrated on evaluation of Bridgestone tyre constructions for the next race at Imola, while team mate Olivier Panis also worked on tyres, but only after a planned chassis change delayed his programme.

"We wanted to use the race chassis today, which the team did a good job of setting-up in time for the second half of the day,” explained Panis. “It turned out to be a hard day for me and my team, as we had some issues with different set-ups in the afternoon, but we are still positive and looking forward to tomorrow to finish the tyre testing that we need to achieve."

The BMW Saubers of Jacques Villeneuve and Robert Kubica completed the line-up in eighth and ninth places. Both men focussed on tyres in the morning, before Villeneuve switched to an aero programme, while Kubica evaluated tyres for the forthcoming European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. A fuel system problem then brought Villeneuve’s day to a slightly premature end.

Testing continues at Paul Ricard on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday times from Paul Ricard:
1. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:04.231
2. Robert Doornbos, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:04.262
3. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:04.274
4. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:04.279
5. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:04.380
6. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:04.655
7. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:04.914
8. Jacques Villeneuve, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:04.960
9. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:05.390
10. Olivier Panis, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:05.524