Pre-season testing resumed today, with the Formula One teams beginning their three-day test in Southern Spain, at Jerez. Moving on from Barcelona, where they tested last week, ten of the eleven Formula One teams will make an appearance, with Spyker being the only to opt out. Things stayed the same from last week, with Ferrari dominating proceedings, and with McLaren chasing their tail in third. Honda and Toyota proved to be strong too, but were no match for Massa, who topped the times on a 1:19.462.
Unlike last week, which centred mostly around the new 2007-spec Bridgestone tyre, the coming two weeks are most likely to be spent on development of new components. Ferrari were no exception, as they set Massa and Badoer working on an intensive technical programme based on engine endurance testing, experimentation with new components and working on finding the best set-up on the 248 F1. Badoer, despite spinning into the gravel trap at one stage, set a time of 1:19.708, thus securing Ferrari the top two spots, and putting them more than half a second ahead of the nearest challengers.
McLaren regained the mantle of chasing team today, as their young protege Lewis Hamilton clocked a time of 1:20.245, outpacing team-mate de la Rosa, who finished in seventh on 1:20.442. For the duo, tyres were again the prime focus of the day. Thanks to the wet start to the day, the team was able to test the wet specification of the Bridgestone tyre, before moving onto dry tyres once the necessary conditions prevailed. Running parallel with the tyre programme was a rear suspension programme for Lewis, and a front and rear-wing programme for Pedro.
Over at Honda, newly-signed tester Christian Klien and James Rossiter were on hand for some more tyre evaluation, as the formerly Michelin-shod team attempts to get more familiar with the new tyres. Along with the tyres, Klien, finishing in fourth on 1:20.394, focused on car balance, with James, in eighth on 1:20.725, focusing on set-up. Rubens Barrichello will join Klien on track tomorrow, as Jenson Button in forced, once again, to miss the test as he recovers from a rib injury, sustained in a kart crash recently.
Toyota today debuted their second new driver of the year, with Japanese man Kohei Hirate getting his first taste of the Toyota TF106B. The 20-year-old made a very creditable debut, clocking the 15th fastest time, a 1:21.424. Team-mate Franck Montagny, although not due to become an official Toyota tester until the new year, managed to push himself up to fifth, with a time of 1:20.398. As with the other teams, the wet start proved to be difficult for running, but once the track was dry, they were able to continue with the planned programme - set-up for both Montagny and Kohei.
“It was very good day and it was a fantastic experience, a lot of fun. The car is very fast and physically it is harder to drive than the cars I am used to driving, it requires a lot of effort,” said debutant Kohei Hirate. “I am happy to get the chance to work with the Formula 1 team and I think we did a good job. I didn't make any mistakes during the test session. We tried different set-ups and found a good set-up for the car. We have done a good job and now I am looking forward to getting the chance to test again.”
“Once the circuit had dried out, which actually took quite a long time today, we were able to work on the 2007 tyres. We had quite a productive day with no major issues on either car,” revealed Dieter Gass, Chief Race and Test Engineer at Toyota. “The team got a lot of things done and we were quite satisfied with the day's work. Kohei had a very good first day I would say, he made no mistakes and he set quite a good lap time which we are quite pleased with. Frank was back in the car for the first time since September and as expected he did a solid job and set a competitive lap time in the afternoon.”
Super Aguri continued with Anthony Davidson at the wheel, driving the team's interim car. The Brit continued his work with the team to understanding the new Bridgestone tyres more, as well as conducting some set-up work. Davidson clocked a time of 1:20.437, the sixth-quickest of the day.
After a promising display in the final day of testing at Barcelona last week, Renault returned to the mid-field today in Jerez, failing to get into the top eight positions. Heikki Kovalainen was the best placed French car, clocking a time of 1:20.784 for ninth place. Team-mate Fisichella could do no better than a 1:21.282 for 14th place, 1.8 seconds adrift of Massa's Ferrari. For the two, tyres was again in focus, with the team's 2007 gearbox also given maximum mileage to build its reliability. Despite the lowly positions, the team was pleased with progress, and look ahead to the remainder of the week.
“We found some interesting directions for the rest of the week on Heikki's car, while Giancarlo basically found his feet with the new tyres,” said Christian Silk, Renault's Chief Test Engineer. “The morning session was not very productive owing to the conditions, but I think we managed to do some good work in the circumstances, and given ourselves a good platform for the rest of the week.”
Williams went the opposite way to Renault, as young Nico Rosberg climbed to tenth place in the final timesheet. The German clocked a time of 1:20.961 in his Toyota-powered FW28B, as the team continues the changeover to Toyota V8 engines.
Rosberg's former team-mate at Williams, Mark Webber was next on the list, as he drove his RB2 to 11th place, with a time of 1:21.053. For the third test in a row at his new team, the Australian managed to outpace his team-mate, with Michael Ammermuller finishing in 13th on 1:21.143. Their sister team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, were also on track, as Vitantonio Liuzzi piloted the only STR01 present. The Italian languished down in 16th at the end of the day on 1:21.472. Scott Speed will take over the car tomorrow.
The final team on track today was BMW Sauber, as Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel took to the track. BMW are another team currently testing a new gearbox for the 2007 car, and along with putting mileage on that, the team focused on tyre evaluation, and collected data through differing set-ups. Kubica ran with the seamless shift gearbox, but the day wasn't totally trouble-free for the Pole, as he spun into the gravel in the morning after oil had leaked onto his tyres. By the end of the day the pair had finished in lowly 12th and 17th places, with Kubica on 1:21.079 and Vettel on 1:22.067. Tomorrow will see Vettel be replaced by Nick Heidfeld.
Testing continues here tomorrow for the second of three days.
Unofficial times from Jerez (06/12/2006):