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Silverstone day three - Renault finish on top 28 Apr 2006

Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Preparations, Imola, Italy, 20 April 2006

This week’s Silverstone test concluded on Thursday, with Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella outpacing the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen to set the fastest time of the week around the British Grand Prix circuit.

Renault’s strong performance was consolidated by test driver Heikki Kovalainen, who was third quickest in the R26. Both the Finn and Fisichella completed a tyre development programme with Michelin and the team’s chief test engineer, Christian Silk, was happy with their achievements for the week.

"It was a good day once again for us,” he said. “The car performed very well during the week and the drivers were happy with its performance. We had good pace here and we know that Silverstone is a good barometer of overall performance, and particularly aerodynamic performance. That indicates the great job our aero department is doing, as well as all the people at Enstone and Viry who are working flat out at the moment. We are looking forward to seeing how things shape up at the British Grand Prix in two months' time."

McLaren wrapped up their programme with tester Gary Paffett joining Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya. Paffett was tasked with shaking down an older MP4-20 car that will be used at the Goodwood Festival of Speed later this year. Montoya, meanwhile, was one of several drivers to comment on the effect the 2006 regulation changes have had on driving at Silverstone.

“It has been really noticeable here how much faster you are through the corners now we have V8 engines,” said the Colombian. “Copse, for example, is really fast and you don't really lift."

Following engine and gearbox difficulties earlier in the week, Red Bull had a far more productive day, with Christian Klien an impressive fourth in the times behind Kovalainen. Team mate David Coulthard was a respectable eighth in the Ferrari-powered RB2.

"Hidden beneath the problems visible on the surface, these three days have produced some very valuable data which should see us move forward in development terms in a few races time," commented Red Bull’s Christian Horner. "The problems we experienced are all part and parcel of a development programme as we pursue more performance from the car."

Rubens Barrichello and Anthony Davidson concluded Honda’s Silverstone schedule with a mixture of tyre, chassis and aero tests. "We have completed some very productive work this week continuing to improve on our race pace,” commented Mark Ellis, chief engineer for vehicle performance. “Only our performance at the Nurburgring will tell how successful we have been, but we are confident that we have made some improvements. We also completed a comprehensive tyre programme with Michelin looking at the options for the Spanish and British Grands Prix."

Following his heavy crash in the Red Bull on Wednesday, Vitantonio Liuzzi was back with Toro Rosso, taking over from Scott Speed as the team finished their first ever Silverstone test. "All the drivers did a good job with no mistakes," said chief engineer Laurent Mekies. "We were evaluating some new aero parts, including a front wing and generally we worked on set-up for the British GP. Today, Tonio also worked on qualifying simulation."

Mark Webber kept Williams inside the top ten as he and Alexander Wurz carried out further development work with the FW28, including evaluation of Cosworth parts ahead of the team’s first in-season engine upgrade.

“It was very difficult to get comparable runs in during the morning session as there were plenty of red flags and a short spell of rain,” explained Mike Condliffe, Williams’ test team manager. “We continued with our compound tests, however, as well as putting some very useful mileage on some revised clutch parts to prove their reliability. Alex also tried the alternative brake materials that were tested yesterday, and both cars tried different wing settings as this was our first test with the V8s on this circuit.”

Robert Kubica had a busy day as he was the only BMW Sauber driver in action. As a result he drove both the team’s chassis. The Pole worked on aero and damper comparisons, as well as aerodynamics, and also completed some long tyre compound runs for Michelin.

Christijan Albers added 43 laps to Midland’s running for the week. The Dutchman shared his car with test driver Adrian Sutil, who completed just ten laps in preparation for Friday practice duties at the Nurburgring next weekend. Unfortunately a transmission problem in the afternoon curtailed his session.

"It was good to be back in the car again, but I just wish it could have been for more time,” said Sutil. “No matter, it's always good to work with the team, and I can't wait to do my first Friday drive at the next race."

Unofficial Thursday times from Silverstone:
1. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault (Michelin), 1:18.518
2. Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (Michelin), 1:18.978
3. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.103
4. Christian Klien, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:19.550
5. Rubens Barrichello, Honda (Michelin), 1:19.614
6. Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren (Michelin), 1:19.676
7. Anthony Davidson, Honda (Michelin), 1:19.760
8. David Coulthard, Red Bull (Michelin), 1:19.900
9. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso (Michelin), 1:19.980
10. Mark Webber, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:20.422
11. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:20.930
12. Christijan Albers, Midland (Bridgestone), 1:20.987
13. Alexander Wurz, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:21.190
14. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:21.888
15. Adrian Sutil, Midland (Bridgestone), 1:25.400