Silverstone day two - Piquet shines 21 Sep 2006
Renaults Nelson Piquet Jr stormed to the top of the timesheets on the second day of testing at Silverstone on Wednesday. Piquet, who only debuted in the R26 on Tuesday, lapped the British Grand Prix circuit in 1m 19.565s - almost two-tenths faster than the time set by his more experienced team mate Heikki Kovalainen.
After familiarizing himself with the car, Piquet knuckled down and conducted several tyre and set-up programmes for the French team. Although some mid-morning mechanical problems hindered his progress, he eventually racked up 73 laps.
"This was another day of learning and improving for me," explained the young Brazilian. The more laps I do, the better things are getting and I feel like I am improving with every run. We did a good variety of long runs and shorter runs today, and the car felt really good as we started making some set-up changes. I am looking forward to another strong day tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Kovalainen, in the second Renault, continued his tyre selection work for the forthcoming Japanese Grand Prix. The Finn was the busiest man on track for the second day running, clocking up an impressive 119 laps.
Third fastest was Pedro de la Rosa in the McLaren, who completed some additional set-up programmes whilst focusing on tyre work for the last three races of the season. The Spaniard spent the day working alongside McLaren protegee Lewis Hamilton. After his brief shakedown run on Tuesday, Hamilton thoroughly enjoyed his first full day of testing.
"It has been a positive session, working through more systems checks with the car during the day, with my focus on this rather than going for times," said Hamilton. "It is a steep learning curve, and as a result I am making sure I get the most out of my time with the test team and the engineers."
Franck Montagny, again on loan from Super Aguri, was fourth quickest as he filled in for sick Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta. Although the Frenchman struggled to find pace during the overcast morning session, he enjoyed several successful runs after the weather brightened up in the afternoon. Toyota test driver Olivier Panis will take over from Montagny on Thursday.
Ralf Schumacher in the second Toyota was seventh fastest. Schumacher spent much of the day working on set-up for the final three Grands Prix before an engine failure - late in the afternoon - ended his session prematurely.
"We had a mixed day today, explained the German. In the morning I was able to get some good running in, but we had some issues with the engine in the afternoon. This was something we were testing and although we lost some time due to this, we will try to make up for it tomorrow. I hope to finish testing some tyre compounds and find the right balance for the next races."
Fifth fastest was Alexander Wurz, who focused on evaluating tyre compounds in the Cosworth-powered Williams FW28A. Wurz will swap to the FW28B car on Thursday to test the Toyota engine he will use as race driver for the team next season. The Austrian was joined by fellow test driver Narain Karthikeyan, who clocked the 11th-quickest time.
Takuma Sato was Super Aguris leading driver in eighth, with Sakon Yamamoto in 10th. Sato took over driving duties in the afternoon, whilst Yamamoto was in charge of the SA-06 during the morning.
Meanwhile, two new drivers, Alexandre Premat and Ronnie Quintarelli, enjoyed their first taste of Formula One power, courtesy of the Midland team. Premat, who will be the teams third driver at the Chinese Grand Prix, impressed the team so much he was asked to carry out an unscheduled tyre programme during the afternoon. He ended the session ninth fastest.
Quintarelli, meanwhile, undertook a brief shakedown of the M16 to prepare for a fan event in Treviso, Italy, this weekend. Although he didnt complete any timed laps, the Formula Nippon star enjoyed the drive.
"I was really impressed with my first time driving a Formula One car," enthused the Italian. "The engine power was good, but the performance of the brakes was very different to what I am used to. I kept thinking I was late braking for a corner, but then realised the brakes and downforce allowed me to drive in a different style."
Testing continues at Silverstone on Thursday.
Unofficial Wednesday times from Silverstone
1. Nelson Piquet Jr, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.565
2. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.700
3. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:19.919
4. Franck Montagny, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:20.620
5. Alexander Wurz, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:20.818
6. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren (Michelin), 1:20.857
7. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:21.125
8. Takuma Sato, Super Aguri (Bridgestone), 1:21.969
9. Alexandre Premat, Midland (Bridgestone), 1:23.200
10. Sakon Yamamoto, Super Aguri (Bridgestone), 1:23.699
11. Narain Karthikeyan, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:23.708
12. Ronnie Quintarelli, Midland (Bridgestone), no time