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Bahrain day three - Ferrari finish as favourites 01 Mar 2007

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2007 F1 Testing, Day Six, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Thursday, 1 March 2007. World © Patching/Sutton Jenson Button (GBR) Honda RA107. F1 Testing, Day Six, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Thursday, 1 March 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault catches some sun. F1 Testing, Day Six, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Thursday, 1 March 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1. F1 Testing, Day Six, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Thursday, 1 March 2007. World © Hartley/Sutton Pedro De La Rosa (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 F1 Testing, Day Six, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Thursday, 1 March 2007. World © Patching/Sutton

The last major pre-season test drew to a close in Bahrain on Thursday, with Ferrari once again dominating the timesheets, leaving the Italian team hotly tipped to win the opening race in Australia in just over a fortnight’s time.

For the third day in a row Felipe Massa was the man to beat, the Brazilian the only driver to dip below the 1m 30s mark around the Sakhir circuit, after clocking a best time of 1m 29.989s. Massa tested in the morning only, running 45 laps in an F2007 fitted with Ferrari’s latest aero package. Team mate Kimi Raikkonen continued work on the package in afternoon, the Finn totalling 77 laps as he finished fourth fastest.

Splitting the Ferraris were the Renaults of Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella in second and third respectively. Kovalainen covered 61 laps in the R27, as he spent the day fine-tuning set-up for April’s Bahrain Grand Prix. Fisichella practised race weekend procedures, but was forced to curtail his running early due to a mechanical problem.

World champion Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, finished just shy of Raikkonen in fifth place for McLaren. Alonso was joined by test driver Pedro de la Rosa, who clocked the seventh-fastest time. The pair continued the team's preparatory work for Melbourne, which included aero tests and set-up programmes.

Rubens Barrichello completed the top six for Honda, as he continued to work on the RA107's general set-up. Team mate Jenson Button finished down in 14th. Button began with race start and qualifying simulations, before completing aero and electronic control systems work in the afternoon.

"The car has proved reliable throughout pre-season testing and we have made improvements since the RA107 ran for the first time in January," explained the British driver. "However, we still have some work to do off-track to ensure we can get the most from our package in the first few races."

By far the busiest man on track was Scott Speed, who put in 125 laps in the Toro Rosso STR2. It was another good outing for the Italian team as they finished the session in eighth place.

“Every day, more and more parts have arrived here from the factory, which have helped us to improve reliability and performance,” said Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso’s chief engineer. “It really kept our guys busy and they worked very hard. Looking at today’s performance especially it is clear we are working in the right direction, even if there is a lot to do.”

Just eight-hundredths of a second slower than Speed was Red Bull stable mate David Coulthard, while Mark Webber in the second RB3 was 11th. Both Webber and Coulthard completed several long runs, and covered a total of 150 laps.

“The test has not been trouble free and a few elements still need fixing, but we have made some progress,” commented Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team principal. “Next week, we will run at Magny-Cours for two days when, as planned, the RB3 will run with the new aerodynamic package that will be used in the first race in Melbourne.”

Nick Heidfeld was the quickest BMW Sauber driver in tenth, with Robert Kubica finishing 12th in the second F1.07. The pair wrapped up the team’s winter programme, carrying out aero tests and set-up evaluations.

“We were able to confirm the cooling system and to test the tyre characteristics in high track temperatures and test the entire car under conditions which will be similar to those we expect for the first three races,” explained Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber's technical director. “By being careful to prepare in every detail we hope to be able to show the same reliability in Melbourne as well.”

Ralf Schumacher and test driver Franck Montagny were both in action for Toyota’s final day in Bahrain. While Schumacher set the 13th-fastest time, Montagny ended the session 15th. Although gearbox problems for Schumacher prevented the German from completing his scheduled programme, Montagny covered 120 laps in the second TF107. The Toyota team will now head to Spain to test again at the Jerez circuit next week.

Completing the Thursday line-up was Super Aguri’s Takuma Sato in 16th. Sato covered 53 laps as he focused on aero tests and set-up work for Melbourne in the Japanese team’s interim car. The 2007 Super Aguri is set to be launched on March 12.

With testing in Bahrain complete, the teams will return to their bases and prepare to depart for Melbourne and the Australian Grand Prix on March 18.

Unofficial Thursday times from Bahrain:
1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:29.989
2. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault, 1:30.384
3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, 1:30.498
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:30.534
5. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 1:30.564
6. Rubens Barrichello, Honda, 1:31.067
7. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 1:31.354
8. Scott Speed, Toro Rosso, 1:31.500
9. David Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:31.589
10. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:31.720
11. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:31.742
12. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:31.751
13. Ralf Schumacher, Toyota, 1:31.791
14. Jenson Button, Honda, 1:31.837
15. Franck Montagny, Toyota, 1:32.264
16. Takuma Sato, Super Aguri, 1:33.357