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Jerez day three - Renault to the fore 07 Jul 2006

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault Third Driver. Formula One Testing, Day One, Jerez, Spain, 4 July 2006. World ©  Hartley/Sutton.

Heikki Kovalainen led the way for Renault on Thursday as testing continued in Jerez. The Finn moved to the top of the timesheets, lapping the test circuit in a best time of 1m 16.852 - over two tenths quicker than the Honda of Jenson Button.

Driving the second Renault was Jose Maria Lopez who clocked a time of 1m 19.239. Although the Argentinean was over two seconds off the pace of Kovalainen, he did improve on his best time in Jerez by two-tenths of a second.

A strong performance from Honda saw Jenson Button take the second fastest time and Rubens Barrichello, who was testing new aerodynamic parts for the RA106 race car, was eighth quickest. Button, who only arrived in Jerez on Thursday for the team’s final day of testing, completed 94 laps before his session ended prematurely following engine failure.

“We had some new items to test this week and were able to get some encouraging results, although our pace is still not quick enough to compete with the top teams,” said Button. ”We have some work to do before next weekend but today's running has provided us with a lot of data to study."

BMW Sauber had another positive day with Robert Kubica and Jacques Villeneuve third and fourth fastest respectively. Test driver Kubica clocked a lap of 1m 17.867, two tenths of a second faster than race driver Villeneuve’s best lap of 1m 18.014. The Canadian managed to complete 75 laps during the day despite stopping out on track three times during the morning session. On Friday both drivers plan to continue tyre testing for the French Grand Prix and evaluate new aerodynamic parts.

After three days in Jerez, McLaren completed its testing programme on Thursday. Pedro de la Rosa, who had been top of the times during the first two days of testing, was fifth fastest after clocking a lap of 1m 18.081. Gary Paffett, in the second McLaren, finished the session ninth.

Summing up the three day session, McLaren team CEO Martin Whitmarsh commented: "Pedro, Gary and the test team have had an intensive and constructive three day session this week at Jerez, putting in over 2,200km. With the upcoming break in testing in August, we have some key proving of components to complete as we work hard towards consolidating the performance of the MP4-21. Both Pedro and Gary worked through Michelin tyre evaluation for the French and German Grands Prix throughout the week, and the high temperatures at Jerez enabled us to conduct the Michelin programme in similar conditions to those we expect at these two races. Alongside this we have been running with developments to the cooling package, which will be rolled out at Magny Cours."

For Toyota, both race drivers arrived at the circuit to test for the French Grand Prix next weekend. Jarno Trulli finished the session sixth fastest, whilst Ralf Schumacher was 12th - clocking a lap of 1m 18.813. According to the team, the test programme was hampered by red flags during the morning session. But despite the delays both drivers remained upbeat about the performance of the Honda TF106B in Jerez.

"I am quite happy with today's testing,” explained Trulli. “We had a trouble-free day with the car and put in quite a few laps. My programme was mainly focused on tyres as well as doing some race simulation and set-up work for Magny-Cours.”

Ralf Schumacher added: “The car is feeling otherwise good and tomorrow I hope to put in more runs than we did today."

Ferrari arrived at the circuit to test for the first time. Luca Badoer was seventh fastest and Michael Schumacher, clocking a lap of 1m 18.680, was tenth on the timesheets. Both drivers were working on tyre set-up for Magny-Cours and the development of aerodynamic and mechanical components for the 248 F1.

Eleventh fastest was Red Bull's Christian Klein, who took over testing duty from Robert Doornbos. Klein's team mate, David Coulthard, is expected to test on Friday.

Slowest overall during Thursday’s session, was Mark Webber for Williams. The Australian was almost two and half seconds slower than Kovalainen - lapping the circuit in 1m 19.248.

Testing continues in Jerez on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday times from Jerez
1. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:16:852
2. Jenson Button, Honda (Michelin), 1:17.162
3. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:17.867
4. Jacques Villeneuve, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:18.014
5. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:18.081
6. Jarno Trulli, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:18.179
7. Luca Badoer, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:18.235
8. Rubens Barrichello, Honda (Michelin), 1:18.320
9. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:18.367
10. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:18.680
11. Christian Klein, Red Bull Racing (Michelin), 1:18.708
12. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:18.813
13. Jose Maria Lopez, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.239
14. Mark Webber, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:19.248