The final test session of 2006 came to a close at Jerez de la Frontera on December 15th and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was at the top of the time sheet with a best of 1:19.497. However, the attention was on Fernando Alonso as the world champion made his debut with the Silver Arrows. Renault agreed to release Alonso for a day's testing with McLaren and the Spaniard was third fastest, two and a half tenths off Hamilton.
"I'm pleased that I was able to drive the McLaren Mercedes Formula One car earlier than expected and would like to thank Renault and Flavio Briatore for agreeing to this," Alonso commented. "I'm really excited about the future and would like to wish everybody a merry Christmas and a happy new year."
McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh said about the week overall: "The drivers have also been working through various development programmes for the MP4-22, such as suspension, aero and set-up work. With Lewis (Hamilton) we have also spent time on activities such as putting him out in traffic so that he builds experience of running with other cars."
Renault's Heikki Kovalainen was second fastest, less than a tenth off Hamilton, and teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was fifth. They concluded the test with work on the Bridgestone tyres, evaluating the envelopes on long runs, and the team reported no problems.
"It's been a good day for me today and my results seem interesting," said Kovalainen. "Everybody worked hard once again today. We need to analyse the data in order to be ready in January to start testing with the new car. These last sessions gave us a good view on different areas such as the tyres and the new gear box."
Honda testers James Rossiter (morning) and Christian Klien (afternoon) shared a chassis, Rossiter fourth fastest overall and Klien 10th. The pair have been on track all three days and covered a programme of tyres, aerodynamics and chassis set up.
"We have had a very productive three days for our final test of the year," Rossiter commented. "We are continuing to develop our understanding about the tyres all the time and the car has been very reliable so we were able to cover a lot of laps every day. Hopefully all the data collected will help us in the development of next year's car."
Honda also had IndyCar driver Marco Andretti behind the wheel, 15th. "It has been a pleasure to give Marco Andretti his first drive in a Formula One car today; he approached the day in a mature and professional manner well in advance of his years and performed well," said chief engineer of vehicle performance Mark Ellis.
Robert Kubica was the lead BMW Sauber in sixth and the team also had test driver Sebastian Vettel on track, eighth. As BMW had completed most of its programme on the first two days, Friday was used mainly for data validation. Kubica also worked on the 2007 gearbox and both drivers carried out long runs.
Luca Badoer was the quicker of the two Ferrari testers on duty in seventh but his day was cut short after 39 laps due to an engine problem. Marc Gen? was 12th on the time sheet and completed the Scuderia's programme of reliability testing, tyres and new components.
Tonio Liuzzi was on loan to Red Bull, from Toro Rosso, and was ninth. "Apart from the tyre work, we also carried out some testing aimed at development of next year's car, in the areas of suspension geometry and gearbox development," said chief test engineer Ian Morgan of the week's work. "Now we are all looking forward to getting our hands on the new car in the New Year."
Takuma Sato completed Super Aguri's test with the 11th best time. "Every day we completed over 100 laps, which is very encouraging," he commented. "We have tried new controls and it was obviously my first time to run the new Bridgestone Potenza tyres, so I am very happy and believe that this has been a very positive test for the team."
Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais was the quicker of the two Toro Rosso cars in 13th, while Scott Speed only completed 15 laps due to a sore hand after his crash on Thursday and rounded off the bottom of the times in 16th. Bourdais had acclimatized himself enough to the car to conclude the team's programme.
"On the technical front, we were again concentrating on a familiarisation programme with the Bridgestone Potenza tyres," said chief engineer Laurent Mekies. "They were the same as those we tried last week. The stable weather meant we were also able to try major changes to car set-up with a view to understanding how these were affected by tyres, while also evaluating new brake materials."
Alex Wurz was the sole Williams in 14th. "In addition to reliability, we have been working hard on understanding the changes in the tyres that Bridgestone are now supplying, and there are no untoward surprises," said technical director Sam Michael. "They are quite consistent and easier to manage, which is helpful when trying to evaluate different set-up changes from a stable baseline."
Note: the test times are unofficial -- the order on the time sheet in this report is based on information provided by the individual teams.