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Silverstone day three - Piquet wows again 22 Sep 2006

Nelson Piquet (BRA) Renault F1 Testing, Day 2, Silverstone, England. 20th September 2006. World © Bumstead/Sutton. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mclaren F1 Testing, Day 3, Silverstone, England. 21st September 2006. World ©  Bumstead/Sutton. Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren F1 Testing, Day 3, Silverstone, England. 21st September 2006 The McLaren of Lewis Hamilton (GBR) is bought back to the pits on a recovery truck. F1 Testing, Day 3, Silverstone, England. 21st September 2006. World ©  Bumstead/Sutton. The Toyota team with Chris Rea (GBR) F1 Testing, Day 3, Silverstone, England. 21st September 2006. World ©  Bumstead/Sutton.

Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jr was the fastest driver for the second consecutive day at Silverstone on Thursday. Piquet shaved two-hundredths of a second off his Wednesday best - clocking a lap of 1m 19.510s - to once again get the better of team mate Heikki Kovalainen.

Piquet spent the last day of Renault’s test at the British Grand Prix circuit working on the R26’s set-up as he continued familiarising himself with the car. The three-day session has allowed the Brazilian to sample his forthcoming role as a fully-fledged test driver for the French team in 2007.

“Nelson continued settling in to the team today, and ran a performance-focused set-up programme,” commented the team’s chief test engineer, Christian Silk, on Piquet’s progress. “He did another good job, to complete a very promising first week of testing with the team.”

On the other side of the garage, Kovalainen completed tyre development ahead of the last three flyaway races. The Finn completed a variety of short and long runs, despite changeable weather conditions, and finalized Michelin’s Renault tyre selections for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton was an impressive third quickest for McLaren in only his second day in the MP4-21. The focus of his work throughout the week has been to become more acquainted with the team’s processes and the car itself, but he also spent Thursday working through tyre selection for Suzuka alongside team mate Pedro de la Rosa.

“The session has allowed me to get a good understanding of the car, how it works, how it differs from the GP2 cars, and also to work with the team,” Hamilton explained. “I had a couple of excursions into the gravel over the week, but that was just part of my learning on how far I could push the car and fortunately no damage was caused. It was great for me to get involved in the development programme today with Pedro, I focused on Michelin evaluation for Japan and working with the engineering team on feedback.”

Hamilton’s fastest lap was just over a tenth of a second quicker than De la Rosa’s best and the Spaniard ended the session the fourth-fastest driver. The main portion of De la Rosa’s day was spent continuing tyre evaluation and set-up work for the Japanese Grand Prix, but he also found time to complete some engine work for Mercedes-Benz.

The Toyota’s of Ralf Schumacher and Olivier Panis were fifth and sixth quickest respectively on the team’s last day of testing. Despite the distraction of celebrity guest Chris Rea, they still managed to complete over 140 laps. Set-up and tyre choices dominated proceedings, along with practice launches.

"It was a tough day dealing with the wind and trying to drive the car in these conditions,” explained Panis. “But in the end, we finished most of our program and got through many laps. I worked on tyres for Suzuka and went through some set-up and balance tests. We had some engine trouble in the afternoon, but I was still able to go back out and run some laps. I think we can make some good conclusions based on the tyre testing we did and it will be interesting to see how the car behaves in China and Japan.”

Williams test driver Alexander Wurz was seventh fastest in the Toyota-powered FW28B. Wurz completed 97 laps of the British circuit, continuing work on engine and gearbox installation. The productive Austrian also fitted in some tyre testing during the afternoon, despite the gusty winds.

Completing the line-up, in eighth, was Takuma Sato for Super Aguri. After completing tyre selections for the forthcoming races on Wednesday, Sato spent the day evaluating aero packages for Shanghai and Suzuka. Although some hydraulic problems hindered progress in the afternoon, the team were pleased with the SA-06’s performance.

“Best test ever!” exclaimed Graham Taylor, Super Aguri’s chief race engineer. “We covered more laps, especially on the final day, and with some pleasing results. We have worked on improving our reliability, run new components and developments on the car and put a lot of work into our Chinese Grand Prix preparations. We are confident that we have chosen the correct tyre compounds for the forthcoming races and so overall, but especially today in such blustery conditions, I am happy with our performance this week.”

Testing concludes at Silverstone on Friday.

Unofficial Thursday times from Silverstone
1. Nelson Piquet Jr, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.510
2. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault (Michelin), 1:19.571
3. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren (Michelin), 1:20.158
4. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren (Michelin), 1:20.283
5. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:21.391
6. Olivier Panis, Toyota (Bridgestone), 1:22.216
7. Alexander Wurz, Williams (Bridgestone), 1:22.958
8. Takuma Sato, Super Aguri (Bridgestone), 1:23.179