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Valencia day one - Alonso stakes his claim 31 Jan 2007

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren MP4/22. Formula One Testing, Valencia, Spain, 30 January 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton Franck Montagny (FRA) Toyota TF107 Test Driver in the pits. Formula One Testing, Valencia, Spain, 30 January 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R27 Formula One Testing, Valencia, Spain. 30 January 2007. World © Bumstead/Sutton Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari. Formula One Testing, Valencia, Spain, 30 January 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Team Interim Car. Formula One Testing, Valencia, Spain, 30 January 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton

Reigning world champion Fernando Alonso set the standard on Tuesday in the McLaren, as the first major multi-team test of the year got underway in Valencia. Alonso, who was driving the new MP4-22 at the Spanish circuit, clocked a best time of 1m12.563s - almost a second faster than Kimi Raikkonen’s quickest time in the Ferrari.

Alonso took advantage of the damp conditions in the morning to evaluate Bridgestone’s wet weather tyres, but as the track dried out in the afternoon he concentrated on continuing system checks for the new car. The Spaniard covered 102 laps before, with five minutes of the session remaining, stopping out on track with a minor oil leak. He will be joined by McLaren tester Pedro de la Rosa on Wednesday.

Over in the Ferrari garage, Raikkonen got his first taste of his new team’s 2007 challenger, the F2007. The Finn, who completed 47 laps, was joined by Luca Badoer, Ferrari test driver. Badoer was less fortunate, ending the day the slowest runner, after the 248 F1 he was driving suffered technical problems. Felipe Massa will replace Badoer for the second day of testing.

Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella was third fastest in the new R27. After waiting for the track’s slippery conditions to improve, Fisichella only began running in the afternoon and covered just 37 laps. The Italian was joined by Renault test driver Nelson Piquet Jr, who covered 31 laps in the second R27 and finished the session eighth. As a result of their interrupted programme, the team plan to stay on at the circuit for an extra day on Friday.

“It was pretty frustrating today, waiting for the track conditions to improve,” commented Fisichella. “We basically lost a day’s work but that can happen at this time of year. We still have three days left though, and I am sure we can make some good progress during the rest of the week.”

Toyota, meanwhile, left the circuit pleased with the performance of the TF107, after its first public outing. Third driver Franck Montagny kicked off his career with the team in style, clocking the fourth-quickest time on the timesheets, while race driver Jarno Trulli ended the day sixth. After several tentative outings on the damp track in the morning, the pair went out on dry tyres in the afternoon, gradually upping their lap times.

“With rain and low temperatures early this morning we decided not to do many laps until the track temperature increased as we did not want to waste our tyres,” explained Toyota test team manager, Gerd Pfeiffer. “The weather improved but on a drying track it is difficult to make comparisons during the day. Both drivers were able to set competitive times and their first impressions of the new car were very positive.”

BMW Sauber third driver Sebastian Vettel was fifth fastest, after completing 79 laps during his maiden run in the team’s new car. Nick Heidfeld was in charge of the second F1.07 and ended the session seventh quickest, despite losing track time after suffering a small mechanical problem in the afternoon.

At Honda, Rubens Barrichello and test driver James Rossiter were in charge of testing duties. While Barrichello ended the day ninth quickest in the team’s new RA107, Rossiter drove last year’s car and clocked the 11th-best time. The weather in the morning only permitted the duo to complete short runs on wet tyres, but after lunch, they swapped to dry rubber and began working on the balance of their respective cars.

Williams test driver Kazuki Nakajima, 10th, was at the wheel of an interim car, ahead of the launch of the team’s new car on Friday. Nakajima concentrated on software and gearbox tests and covered 81 laps. Other solo runners were Mark Webber for Red Bull and Takuma Sato for Super Aguri. Webber ended the session in 13th in the RB3, while Sato scored the 12th-best time in Super Aguri’s interim car.

Testing continues at Valencia on Wednesday.

Unofficial Tuesday times from Valencia:
1. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:12.563
2. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:13.529
3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, 1:13.550
4. Franck Montagny, Toyota, 1:13.672
5. Sebastian Vettel, BMW Sauber, 1:13.678
6. Jarno Trulli, Toyota, 1:13.735
7. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:13.858
8. Nelson Piquet Jr, Renault, 1:13.871
9. Rubens Barrichello, Honda, 1:14.016
10. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 1:14.519
11. James Rossiter, Honda, 1:14.646
12. Takuma Sato, Super Aguri, 1:15.674
13. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:15.729
14. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:16.388