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Barcelona day four - Renault in charge 17 Apr 2006

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 31 March 2006

Renault dominated the week’s final day of testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on Friday. Heikki Kovalainen was the only man to dip under the 1m 14s barrier, as he went four tenths quicker than team mate Giancarlo Fisichella.

"It was a successful conclusion to our test,” reported Christian Silk, Renault’s chief test engineer. “We worked well with good progress on the tyres in particular. The team did a great job throughout this session and worked all the hours needed to get the job done. We will continue developing the chassis and the aerodynamics of the car for the next races and we will be on track at Silverstone in two weeks to continue our development programme. We all know that these test sessions are a vital part of winning races afterwards!"

Jarno Trulli kept up hopes of a strong Toyota showing at Imola next weekend with the third-fastest time of the day. In contrast, team mate Ralf Schumacher finished a lowly 14th in the times after spinning out of the session late in the day.

"We continued testing the tyres today, doing a lot of long runs,” commented Trulli. “With each test the tyres are improving and today we confirmed what I said yesterday, we have made a huge improvement in the handling of the car. We are consistently making progress and getting quicker in comparison to the first races. In general, I feel more comfortable about the car fitting my driving style, especially now when we are heading into the next race. Imola was never really kind to the team, but nevertheless, our times show that we can get more out of the car and we are ready to show our potential."

Jenson Button was the leading Honda driver in fourth place. He began with general set-up work, before completing a tyre evaluation over longer runs to end the morning session. He spent the afternoon working through a short aero evaluation followed by further set-up work. Team mate Rubens Barrichello concentrated on chassis set-up in the morning, but due to a trapped nerve in his shoulder, sat out the afternoon session with Anthony Davidson taking over.

"A fairly straightforward test this week with a lot of test items to get through before we go into the European season,” said Button. “We focused mainly on aero developments and tyre testing for the next few races and I feel that we've made a positive step forward with our aero package and also on the tyre warming work."

The Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa were fifth and ninth respectively, both men focusing on Bridgestone tyre work, while Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya took sixth and seventh spots after an eventful day for McLaren. Both experienced mechanical failures on the MP4-21s, with Montoya’s leading to his car going off track into a gravel trap. There was no damage to his car and the test team were able to resolve the issues quickly and get both cars back out on track to continue running. Towards the end of the session, Montoya also suffered an engine problem, however with under an hour left of the day, McLaren took the decision to end his test for the week.

At BMW Sauber, Jacques Villeneuve and Robert Kubica had a busy and productive day. In the morning Villeneuve did more aero and set-up work as well as systems testing, a starting development programme and traction control settings. In the afternoon he did longer runs so Michelin and the team could study the tyre performance. Both Villeneuve and his engineers were happy with the work they had done validating what they need for Imola. Kubica did set-up work in the morning and then in the afternoon concentrated solely on a tyre programme.

Williams had a difficult session, as test team manager, Mike Condliffe, explained: “Today Alex (Wurz) joined Mark (Webber) on our final day in Barcelona. In the early part of the morning, Mark had an accident - fortunately he was fine but it left the car badly damaged. As a result, Mark switched to the other car in order to carry out some confirmatory tyre compound tests for the race here in a few weeks’ time. The crew did an excellent job turning Mark’s car around and were able to get it out for the last part of the session. Although we didn't get as much running in as we would have liked today, the re-prioritised programme gave us a clear direction in which to develop.”

Things did not run smoothly for Super Aguri either, as reliability issues meant the team ran out of track time before Yuji Ide could get a run in the car. Takuma Sato, remained generally upbeat, however, despite finishing a distant last in the timesheets.

“Our time in Barcelona has been productive as we have been able to finally conduct a proper test programme with the SA05, but we have encountered some problems,” he said. “We have been able to gain a better understanding of the car, which is very positive, but unfortunately our running was cut short on the last two days, mainly because of hydraulics problems.

“We also had to leave our important Bridgestone tyre test, which was planned for Thursday, until today. Another hydraulics failure cut short my running this morning and so we have not been able to complete our tyre evaluation for the next few races. I have mixed feelings leaving this test, but the good part is that we have a much greater understanding of the SA05.”

Shakedowns aside, the teams will next be on track at Imola in Friday’s first practice for the San Marino Grand Prix.

Unofficial Friday times from Barcelona:
1. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:13.928
2. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:14.305
3. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:14.686
4. Jenson Button, Honda (Michelin), 1:14.716
5. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:14.740
6. Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (Michelin), 1:14.751
7. Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren (Michelin), 1:14.879
8. Rubens Barrichello, Honda (Michelin), 1:14.998
9. Felipe Massa, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:15.209
10. Jacques Villeneuve, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:15.321
11. Mark Webber, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:15.335
12. Anthony Davidson, Honda (Michelin), 1:15.538
13. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:15.791
14. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:16.041
15. Alexander Wurz, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:17.736
16. Takuma Sato, Super Aguri (Bridgestone), 1:19.512