Jerez day four - Kovalainen takes McLaren back to the top 15 Feb 2008
McLarens Heikki Kovalainen finished testing at the Spanish circuit of Jerez on a high on Thursday, as he became the only driver of the week to clock a time under the 1m 18s mark. Kovalainens lap, a 1m 17.974, was over half a second faster than Red Bulls David Coulthard.
The Finn was joined on track by team mate Lewis Hamilton, who finished in fourth. During the day both McLarens sported distinctive new wheel rim covers and the pair completed just under 180 laps as they wrapped up the British teams scheduled programme for the test.
Coulthard was accompanied by team mate Mark Webber who ended the day in 10th. With the windy conditions much improved on Thursday, the Scot and Webber both covered 107 laps as they continued the teams preparations for the start of the 2008 season.
Overall, this has been a very good test for us, as we got through all our programme and completed more laps than planned, explained Red Bull's chief test engineer, Ian Morgan. Over the three days, we did a lot of aero and mechanical work with no major problems and we can look forward to the remaining pre-season tests in Barcelona with confidence.
Third fastest was Kazuki Nakajima for Williams, while team tester Nico Hulkenberg finished in 14th. Nakajima completed 90 laps in the FW30, while Hulkenberg covered 71.
Robert Kubica was once again the quickest BMW Sauber driver, clinching fifth for the German-Swiss squad. Kubica and team mate Nick Heidfeld, ninth, covered numerous long runs to help the team properly evaluate different aerodynamic set-ups to help improve the balance of the F1.08.
Toro Rossos Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais continued to impress in terms of pace, with both drivers making it into the top ten, in sixth and eighth respectively. The team, however, were less than happy with the STR2Bs reliability, with Vettel hampered by clutch and electrical problems and Bourdais sidelined by a water leak.
A tenth of a second adrift of Vettel was Nelson Piquet Jr in seventh for Renault. Piquet concentrated on completing long runs, while team tester Lucas di Grassi focused on familiarising himself with the new car to eventually finish in 15th. The pair covered over 200 laps.
Giancarlo Fisichella impressed for Force India, clinching 11th spot for the team. Fisichella worked through a programme of gearbox and electronic development and completed 86 laps.
Today was a good day, explained the Italian. We were able to put in a lot of laps without any major problems and I felt more comfortable in the car. We worked through a programme of set-up and some development items and even with a reasonable fuel load we were still able to put in some competitive times.
Over three tenths down on the former Renault driver was Hondas Jenson Button in 12th. Button was joined by team tester Alexander Wurz, who ended the day in 16th. Both completed full race distance simulations with live pit stops in the morning, before continuing set-up work in the afternoon.
After this week's test in Jerez, we now have a full understanding of the issues which have been affecting the handling of the car, explained Steve Clark, Hondas head of race and test engineering. The new components to address these issues will be ready in time for our next test in Barcelona.
Completing the line-up on Thursday was Anthony Davidson for Super Aguri. It was Davidsons first time behind the wheel since December last year.
It was good to be back in the car after a long winter break, said the British driver. It was a dry day in Jerez, however the wind picked up in the afternoon making it difficult out on track to find good balance. We got a lot of positive runs in and completed 103 laps with everything running reliably. We continued learning about the MES system from team and driver perspectives and I think that we made good progress overall today.
With the test in Jerez now over, most of the teams will head back to their factories to continue preparations for Marchs season opener in Melbourne. Williams, Red Bull, Super Aguri, Renault and Toyota are expected to be back in action next week at Barcelonas Circuit de Catalunya for a three-day test from February 19, while BMW Sauber will enjoy an exclusive session at Valencia.
Unofficial Thursday times from Jerez:
1. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:17.974
2. David Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:18.485
3. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 1:19.117
4. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:19.429
5. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:19.535
6. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:19.688
7. Nelson Piquet Jr, Renault, 1:19.817
8. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:19.848
9. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:19.934
10. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:19.980
11. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, 1:20.669
12. Jenson Button, Honda, 1:20.988
13. Anthony Davidson, Super Aguri, 1:21.010
14. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:21.116
15. Lucas di Grassi, Renault, 1:21.286
16. Alexander Wurz, Honda, 1:21.605