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Silverstone day one - Kovalainen sets pace 20 Sep 2006

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R26. Formula One Testing, Silverstone, England, 19 September 2006. World © SUTTON L-R: Ricardo Zonta (BRA) Toyota talks with Nelson Piquet Jr (BRA) Renault. Formula One Testing, Silverstone, England, 19 September 2006. World ©  Bumstead/Sutton. Sakon Yamamoto (JPN) Super Aguri SA06 is pushed back into the garage. Formula One Testing, Silverstone, England, 19 September 2006. World ©  Bumstead/Sutton. Adrian Valles (ESP) Spyker MF1 M16. Formula One Testing, Silverstone, England, 19 September 2006. World ©  Bumstead/Sutton. Narain Karthikeyan (IND) Williams Toyota FW27. Formula One Testing, Silverstone, England, 19 September 2006. World ©  Bumstead/Sutton.

Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen was the fastest runner on the week’s first day of testing at Silverstone on Tuesday. Kovalainen clocked a time of 1m19.125s around the British Grand Prix circuit - just over two tenths quicker than the second-placed Toyota of Ricardo Zonta.

Kovalainen, fresh from last week’s session in Jerez, Spain, spent the morning adjusting the set-up of the R26, before undertaking a programme of tyre selection for the Japanese Grand Prix in the afternoon. Although the team had a slow start to the day because of poor track conditions, Kovalainen managed to rack up 91 laps, making him the busiest driver of the day.

In the second Renault, Nelson Piquet Jr enjoyed a successful debut test for the team. The Brazilian spent the day acclimatising to the team’s working procedures and the car itself, before impressively recording the fourth-quickest time of the day - just six-tenths shy of his more experienced team mate.

"It was a good first day of testing,” explained Piquet. “There are some similarities with the GP2 car in terms of the clutch and electronics, but I still have a lot to learn, so the main thing for today was to do as much running as possible, and to take everything on-board. It's important I think to learn a lot straight away and to meet the people I am going to work with. It was a busy and interesting day, and I felt comfortable in the car straight away which is quite positive I think."

Splitting the two Renaults were the Toyotas of Ricardo Zonta and Franck Montagny. Although Zonta battled with flu for much of the session, he still managed to finish Toyota’s tyre testing programme for the Chinese Grand Prix. He will not test again this week so he can recover from his illness.

Montagny, meanwhile, was on special release from Super Aguri for his first outing in the TF106. The Frenchman, who is in line for Zonta’s Toyota test role when the Brazilian leaves for Renault next season, jumped at the opportunity to test this week while Jarno Trulli is busy at a fan event in Japan. He focused on tyre selection for much of the day and will test alongside Ralf Schumacher on Wednesday.

"Overall, I had a really good feeling - about the car and its handling, the team and everyone who worked with me today,” said Montagny. “I felt that everyone was very professional and made me feel comfortable.”

Fifth fastest was Christijan Albers for Midland, the Dutchman working on tyre selection for the next three Grands Prix. Albers’ afternoon stint followed a morning outing for newcomer Adrian Valles, who ended his debut drive seventh fastest. Although almost three seconds of the pace of Albers, the Spanish GP2 star was pleased with his performance.

“Driving a Formula One car for the first time was an amazing experience for me today,” he enthused. “I really like the Silverstone circuit as its high-speed corners are a real challenge. I think towards the end of the day that my lap times began to improve and I would like to thank the team and engineers for the support that they gave me today.”

Midland will complete their test on Wednesday with another newcomer, Ronnie Quintarelli, at the wheel. The 27-year-old Italian is a veteran of Formula Renault 2000 and Japanese Formula Nippon.

Sakon Yamamoto was sixth fastest for Super Aguri. The Japanese driver, who has had a difficult start to his Formula One career with four consecutive retirements, completed 36 laps of the British Grand Prix circuit. He will hand over to team mate Takuma Sato on Wednesday afternoon.

Completing the timesheets was Narain Karthikeyan for Williams. It was a day of discovery for the team who ran with a Toyota engine for the first time along with the Williams’ 2007 gearbox. As a result, Karthikeyan ran only seven laps.

“We completed some short runs for system checks and encountered various teething issues on the chassis side that we will rectify for tomorrow's running,” explained Mike Condliffe, Williams’ test team manager. “As with most new projects, there are plenty of items that need work.”

Testing continues at Silverstone on Wednesday.

Unofficial Tuesday times from Silverstone
1. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.125
2. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:19.377
3. Franck Montagny, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:19.659
4. Nelson Piquet Jr, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.723
5. Christijan Albers, Midland (Bridgestone), 1:22.060
6. Sakon Yamamoto, Super Aguri (Bridgestone), 1:24.349
7. Adrian Valles, Midland (Bridgestone), 1:25.355
8. Narain Karthikeyan, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:28.284