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Monza day three - Massa heads final day 01 Sep 2006

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F1 Testing, Day 1, Monza, Italy. 29th August 2006. World ©  Patching/Sutton.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa set the fastest time of the week at Monza on Thursday, as testing concluded ahead of next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at the circuit. Massa was eight tenths of a second quicker than world champion Fernando Alonso, just ahead of Red Bull’s Christian Klien.

Massa again worked alongside team mate Michael Schumacher (fourth fastest), the pair continuing Bridgestone tyre and set-up work. Alonso, meanwhile, carried out a mix of long and short-distance runs, with Renault tester Heikki Kovalainen (11th) working with Michelin on tyres.

"This was a good way to round off a busy week, with lots of laps and plenty of new knowledge about the tyres,” said Christian Silk, Renault’s chief test engineer. “We have a good starting point from which to approach next week's Grand Prix, I think. This was an important and demanding test for the team, and every member worked to their maximum until the early hours each day. But that just goes to show how motivated we are to defend our championship lead!"

Klien’s impressive time ended Red Bull’s week on a high, though the session had not been without incident. "Generally, the test went well with David (Coulthard) getting through his full programme on the first day, when Christian lost a bit of time going off the track and with a gearbox problem," said chief test engineer, Ian Morgan. "Today, Christian was again slightly delayed, this time by a brake problem in the morning and he also had a very minor ‘off’ right at the end of the day. The engine ran faultlessly throughout and we are happy with the tyre choices we have made for next weekend."

Nico Rosberg was Williams’ leading driver in fifth, with Alexander Wurz seventh. “Alex concentrated on comprehensive tyre tests, which took up the bulk of today's running, although there were some new mechanical parts being tested for reliability at the same time,” explained Mike Condliffe, test team manager. “Nico completed work on the specific aero package we will run next week as well as some smaller aero parts before finishing the remainder of our tyre tests ahead of the race.”

Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett concluded McLaren’s programme in sixth and ninth spots respectively. Paffett’s engine came to the end of its lifecycle and failed in the afternoon, but his mechanics completed a swift change and got him back out towards the end of the session. McLaren’s focus was again their Italian Grand Prix package, in particular tyres, as some of the track has been resurfaced since last year’s race.

Toyota lost half a day’s running when Ralf Schumacher pulled out of the session at lunchtime feeling unwell. That left Ricardo Zonta to carry the workload, the Brazilian finishing eighth in the times. “It is unfortunate that we could not run both cars at the same time in the afternoon, but I think we the team did a good job preparing the cars so I could drive both and collect the data we needed,” he said. “Like always, it's hard to say how we will do next weekend, but I think we have a competitive package and we will just have to wait and see."

Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello had a difficult day at Honda. Both were halted by different engine problems in the morning (the causes of which are being investigated), then Button had a big off at the Parabolica in the afternoon, caused by a rear suspension problem. He was unhurt, but the car was too badly damaged to continue.

"It has been an intensive two days at Monza this week with a lot of work to complete prior to next weekend,” said Button. “We spent most of my two days concentrating on tyre testing with Michelin to gather the data to choose the tyres for the race. There has been resurfacing work at Monza and the new asphalt is of a different composition which has made the tyre testing particularly challenging, but I believe that we have the data now to make the right choice. Today's problems have been a little disappointing so we will have to wait and see what the analysis of these issues tells us."

Another crash, this one for Robert Kubica in the morning, kept the BMW Sauber driver off track until two o'clock. He nevertheless completed a large tyre programme in the afternoon over six long runs and finished the day 12th fastest. Team mate Sebastian Vettel was 16th, the German teenager carrying out aero and set-up work for the Monza race, as well as systems development with special emphasis on shifting.

Toro Rosso had both race drivers in action for their final day, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed going 15th and 17th fastest respectively, as the team tried out two new rear wing configurations as part of their low-downforce aero package for Monza.

"The drivers all did a good job, delivering a fault free performance, which is why we managed to cover in excess of 2000 kilometres," said Toro Rosso’s chief engineer Laurent Mekies. "So we have plenty of data to study and all will now depend on what conditions we find here when we return for the race in one week's time."

Tiago Monteiro was 18th for Midland, comfortably setting the team’s best time of the week. "We were able to cover almost 600 km today, with a full programme that included tyres, aerodynamic components, brakes and set-up testing,” reported Dominic Harlow, chief race and test engineer. “Again, we found improvements that translated directly into improved lap times and are confident that we will be continuing our trend of increasing competitiveness at the race here next weekend."

Takuma Sato took over driving duties at Super Aguri, completing the Thursday line-up in 19th place. “We encountered a few problems this morning which meant that we had a late start to our running and a gearbox problem in the afternoon meant that we were unable to complete our planned programme, but we have collected the data we require for the race next week,” he said.

“It has been a productive week for the Super Aguri F1 team, but an extremely tough one,” added Mark Preston, the team’s chief technical officer. “We have finally participated in a test before a race and have therefore been able to make the appropriate preparations. I think that what we have achieved over the past three days should put us in a good position for the coming race weekend. We have collected a good amount of data to look over and we will now be able to plan Franck’s (Montagny) programme for the Friday free practice sessions more thoroughly."

Unofficial Thursday times from Monza
1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1.21.101
2. Fernando Alonso, Renault (Michelin), 1:21.902
3. Christian Klien, Red Bull, (Michelin), 1:21.999
4. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (Bridgestone), 1:22.017
5. Nico Rosberg, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:22.070
6. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:22.172
7. Alexander Wurz, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:22.174
8. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:22.350
9. Gary Paffett, McLaren (Michelin), 1:22.439
10. Jenson Button, Honda (Michelin), 01:22.536
11. Heikki Kovalainen., Renault (Michelin), 1:22.579
12. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:22.900
13. David Coulthard, Red Bull, (Michelin), 1:22.939
14. Rubens Barrrichello, Honda (Michelin), 01:23.096
15. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rosso (Michelin), 1:23.108
16. Sebastian Vettel, BMW Sauber (Michelin), 1:23.200
17. Scott Speed, Toro Rosso (Michelin), 1:23.714
18. Tiago Monteiro, Midland (Bridgestone), 1:23.850
19. Takuma Sato, Super Aguri (Bridgestone), 1:24.543
20. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Bridgestone), no time