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Valencia day three - Kovalainen takes McLaren to the top 24 Jan 2008

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 23 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 23 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda and Alex Wurz (AUT) Honda Test Driver talks with engineers. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 23 January 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams FW30 makes a practice pitstop Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 23 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Sebastien Bourdais (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR02 spins Formula One Testing, Day Three, Valencia, Spain, Wednesday 23 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen stole Ferrari’s thunder in Valencia on Wednesday as testing continued at the Spanish circuit. Kovalainen’s best, a 1m 11.000s, was over sixths-tenths of a second quicker than Felipe Massa who had been Tuesday’s fastest runner for the Italian team.

With clear conditions easing progress, Kovalainen was able to accumulate 92 laps in the new MP4-23. The Finn was joined by new team mate Lewis Hamilton who finished the day in fourth after covering 115 laps. Both McLaren drivers carried out several long runs as they tested the durability of new components.

Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile, took charge of the second Ferrari F2008 alongside Massa. The duo completed almost 200 laps as they focused their attentions on set-up and reliability. Raikkonen was third fastest and both will continue on Thursday.

The faster Williams driver was Kazuki Nakajima, who finished in fifth, driving the older FW29B. His team mate Nico Rosberg was tasked with evaluating the British team’s new FW30 and ended the day in seventh. Splitting the two Williams drivers was Renault’s Fernando Alonso in the French team’s new R28.

“The purpose of this test was to start running the new car and to try to understand how it works,” said Alonso, who will hand over to team mate Nelson Piquet Jr on Thursday. “My final day went well and again we ran without any problems and covered a lot of laps, but the time to improve the car will be during the next few test sessions. I feel very much at ease with the team and every day I feel more and more comfortable with the car. The next test cannot come soon enough.”

Mark Webber was the only Red Bull driver in action and finished in eighth. Webber spent his first day in the squad’s 2008 car acclimatising to the RB4 before carrying out some aero work.

“I’m happy with the new car,” said the Australian. “Today has been encouraging and, so far, it seems to be a big step forward from last year in terms of reliability and speed, which is great. Now we need to work with what we’ve got and get it as fast as possible before Melbourne. We’ve got a big four weeks coming up.”

Down in ninth was BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld in the German-Swiss team’s F1.07. Heidfeld was accompanied on track by team mate Robert Kubica, who drove the new F1.08 and finished 12th after covering a mammoth 121 laps. With Heidfeld focusing on system settings in the older car, Kubica tested different suspension parts in its successor.

Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel was tenth, just under three-tenths faster than 13th-placed team mate Sebastien Bourdais. While Bourdais covered 119 laps, Vettel’s day was hampered by a time-consuming technical problem and the young German managed just 63. Both will continue on Thursday.

Timo Glock was 11th quickest for Toyota, while team mate Jarno Trulli clinched 15th spot. Both drove the Japanese team’s new car, the TF108, and focused on set-up.

“Today went according to plan and both Timo and Jarno completed their programmes without any problems,” said Dieter Gass the squad’s chief race and test engineer. “I have to say, so far the new car has shown very impressive reliability. We mainly concentrated on aerodynamic testing, trying various different configurations and comparing the results. I would say we are making good progress.”

Just ahead of Trulli on the timesheets was Adrian Sutil for Force India. Sutil completed just under 400km of the Spanish track in an effort to make up for his limited running on Tuesday, and carried out set-up and damper work.

Completing the line-up were the Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Japanese hopeful Takashi Kogure. Barrichello took charge of the initial evaluation of the team’s new RA108, completing 28 laps, while Kogure was in action in the older RA107 as part of Honda’s Formula Dream Project.

Testing continues at the Spanish track on Thursday.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Valencia:
1. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:11.000
2. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:11.662
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:11.850
4. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:12.076
5. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 1:12.255
6. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 1:12.360
7. Nico Rosberg, Williams, 1:12.493
8. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:12.594
9. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:12.976
10 Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:13.015
11. Timo Glock, Toyota, 1:13.129
12. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:13.230
13. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:13.307
14. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:13.409
15. Jarno Trulli, Toyota, 1:13.547
16. Rubens Barrichello, Honda, 1:14.588
17. Takashi Kogure, Honda, 1:16.954