F1

Hamilton speeds away at Jerez test

Lewis Hamilton put fellow drivers and pestering fans behind him Tuesday as Formula One teams returned to southern Spain to resume winter testing. Hamilton's most recent appearance in the home nation of erstwhile McLaren Mercedes teammate...

Lewis Hamilton put fellow drivers and pestering fans behind him Tuesday as Formula One teams returned to southern Spain to resume winter testing.

Hamilton's most recent appearance in the home nation of erstwhile McLaren Mercedes teammate double world champion Fernando Alonso had produced a smattering of taunts and racially defined antics as Alonso supporters reminded the Briton where he was.

But none of the boorish behavior of Barcelona materialized in Jerez de la Frontera and nine teams got on with business at the 2.75-mile Circuit de Jerez under clearing skies and mostly ideal conditions. Air temperatures ranged from the mid 40s to high 60s Fahrenheit and track temps ran to the low 80s. Afternoon gusts affected teams, including BMW Sauber, working on aerodynamic development.

Testing parts added throughout the day, Hamilton led all runners with a quick time of 1 minute, 19.102 seconds in 89 laps. Longtime McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa, another Spaniard, was second quick at 1:19.287 (88 laps). As they have of late, Honda again brought up the rear, test and reserve driver Alex Wurz posting a 1:21.950 in 86 laps.

Breezy bothers aside, BMW Sauber drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld completed a full program and ran through various set-ups, system checks, aerodynamic procedures and practice starts with the F1.08s. Kubica's 1:19.539 set in 91 laps shaded Heidfeld's best time of 1:19.958 in 94 laps.

Kubica's time put him behind the McLarens and ahead of Kazuki Nakajima (1:19.601) in a Williams Toyota FW30 and Nelson Angelo "Nelsinho" Piquet (1:19.660) in a Renault R28. The Williams is finding consistent speed through winter testing. Heidfeld followed Piquet with the final time under 1:20.

"Another good day and lots of mileage for the car and myself," Piquet said. "The more I drive the car, the happier I feel, and it's all good preparation for the first race. The car ran well today and we did not have any problems, which meant we could do a race distance in the afternoon."

The Red Bull family were mostly bunched together on the unofficial time sheets. Mark Webber drove an RB4 to a quick lap of 1:20.013 (113 laps) ahead of Nico Rosberg (1:20.029, 125 laps) in a Williams. Then followed Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel (1:20.105 in 53 laps) in an STR2B, David Coulthard (1:20.176 in 111 laps) in the second Red Bull, and Sebastien Bourdais (1:20.418) in a second Toro Rosso STR2B.

Webber concentrated on mechanical set-up and Coulthard on aerodynamic development. Both veterans soldiered on through the bothersome winds to combine for the highest lap total (224) by team.

Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers Bourdais and Vettel worked through a varied program of simulated race conditions, pit stops, starts, long runs and set-up work while focusing on newly regulated electronics. All teams use a standard electronic control unit this season.

Times reached the 1:21s with Rubens Barrichello posting a 1:21.133 in 71 laps in the Honda RA108. Renault test driver and fellow Brazilian Lucas di Grassi ran to a 1:21.200 in 92 laps in his first experience with the R28, then came Super Aguri's Takumo Sato in 1:21.400 in 90 laps, Force India test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, working solo, in 1:21.533 (103 laps), and Wurz.

Renault chief test engineer Christian Silk said the team accomplished all aims. "The two main objectives of the program were to complete a race distance with Nelson and to get Lucas comfortable in the car as he had not run an R28 on a full circuit test before.

"Both these were completed without any problems and both cars enjoyed a trouble-free day. Nelson did a bit of performance work in the morning, improving the set-up of the car, and completed a race distance in the afternoon without any major issue, so that was a good day for us," Silk said.

Super Aguri's interim car, the SA07B, ran reliably and accomplished desired lengthy runs to examine chassis set-ups. The team's plan to introduce its 2008 model, the SA08, at a February 19 launch in Barcelona has been postponed. Instead they have invited the media to visit their motorhome at the Circuit de Catalunya for a question and answer segment. The team continues to pursue sponsorship deals that could affect the car's livery before the season starts March 16 in Australia.

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