F1

F1 testing blows awry in Spain

As if to test their abilities to cope with changing circumstances -- as they would do in races -- southern Spain's windy weather caused Formula One teams to improvise Wednesday during winter testing at Jerez de la Frontera. Their plans...

As if to test their abilities to cope with changing circumstances -- as they would do in races -- southern Spain's windy weather caused Formula One teams to improvise Wednesday during winter testing at Jerez de la Frontera.

Their plans affected by gusts that began in late morning under sunny skies, teams reacted by testing parts not affected by the conditions, as Renault did, or cutting short their programs altogether, as McLaren did when Lewis Hamilton parked his MP4-23 in mid-afternoon. Aerodynamic development in particular was adversely affected.

Seemingly least affected, despite a number of unplanned stops, was Australian Mark Webber, who pushed his Red Bull RB4 to the day's quickest time, the only lap under 1 minute, 19 seconds on the 4.428-kilometer (2.75-mile) Circuit de Jerez. Webber set the day's fast lap at 1:18.628. Test times are kept but regarded as unofficial.

Nico Rosberg was second quick in the Toyota-powered Williams FW30 at 1:19.091. He was followed by teammate Kazuki Nakajima in 1:19.215.

Double world champion and Spanish home boy Fernando Alonso followed the Williamses in 1:19.710, managing to complete more than 100 laps in the R28. Alonso, who covered 104 laps or 456 kilometers (283 miles), was one of only a handful of drivers to compile such mileage.

"Like all teams here we struggled with the very windy conditions," Alonso said. "But we tried to make the most of the day and test some important parts of the car that were not affected by the wind. So we did some useful work, but we will have to concentrate on the performance of the car later on in February."

Renault chief test engineer Christian Silk said conditions prevented completion of the team's desired program.

"We had to adapt the program today because of the weather conditions, which made learning much about the set-up of the car quite difficult, especially in the afternoon," he said. "We did not manage to complete the set-up work we wanted but we did some brake testing instead."

Nelson Angelo Piquet drove the other R28 to a quick time of 1:20.014 in completing 110 laps. He accomplished set-up work, race-distance long runs and procedures including installation laps, starts and pit stops.

BMW Sauber also complained the wind hampered their F1.08 tests, lowered lap times and interrupted scheduled afternoon long runs. Robert Kubica was fifth-quickest (1:19.829) in covering 116 laps, most by any driver. Nick Heidfeld posted a 1:20.201 in 109 laps.

Hamilton ran a quick lap of 1:19.657 in 68 laps before handing over his McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 to mechanics instead of completing scheduled long runs. His teammate, Heikki Kovalainen, finished the day with shorter runs, posting a quick time of 1:20.201 in 109 laps.

Shoring up his teammate's quick time, Red Bull's David Coulthard ran seventh best in 1:19.883 in 97 laps. But the team indicated little meaningful feedback came from the session.

Scuderia Toro Rosso were more upbeat, declaring the STR2B to have run well in race trim despite planned aero component and balance tests, and race prep work being hampered by conditions. Sebastian Vettel ran to a quick lap of 1:19.889 in 114 laps. Sebastien Bourdais spent time in the garage with a mechanical complaint but turned a 1:20.536 in 76 laps. Both STR2Bs were outfitted with the latest-spec front suspensions.

Again among the slower times were Honda drivers Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button. Barrichello focused on chassis set-up on the RA108, posting a quick lap of 1:21.710 in 58 laps. Button ran through aero evaluations and did general set-up work in 85 laps. His best lap was timed in 1:21.147.

Private Honda team Super Aguri, testing one car, an SA07B in the hands of Takuma Sato, covered 101 laps, working on set-up and systems tests.

Another team testing one car, Force India, put Adrian Sutil through starts and race simulations. His quickest lap was a 1:22.244 in 86 laps.

"After Tonio (Liuzzi) worked yesterday on the braking system and gearbox development, there was no real balance to be found today because the wind was simply too strong," chief race and test engineer Dominic Harlow said. "So the team concentrated on race simulations and system checks as the remaining laps of testing before the first race of 2008 are counting down rapidly."

The Formula One season begins March 16 in Melbourne, Australia.

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