Of the six drivers with six teams remaining in southern Spain to conclude Formula One testing Thursday, only BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld laughed at the weather. His team didn't acknowledge the rain that kept 2010 tire testers Jarno Trulli of Toyota and Mark Webber of Red Bull in the garage until after lunch. Instead, Heidfeld put his head down and pounded out a day-high 123 laps with an unofficial chart-topping fast lap of 1 minute, 20.052 seconds. Weather victim Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, crashed.
The German tested wet tires until gusty winds dried the 2.75-mile Circuito de Jerez then he switched to mechanical work on the F1.09-03. Plans to develop aerodynamical components fell by the way.
"The ever-changing weather made it quite difficult to do continuous work during the Jerez test," technical coordinator Willy Rampf said. "Nevertheless, we achieved the main targets of our development program. Basically, we concentrated on setup work and evaluation of new components. Running the BMW Sauber F1.09 for the first time in full wet conditions was a valuable experience as well. In addition, on one of the days we had the chance to test the 2010 specification tires. Now we will have a busy weekend working out the program for the last preseason test in Barcelona next week. Then we will also have a complete race simulation and pit-stop practice on the schedule."
Kimi Raikkonen managed to hold the Ferrari F60 on course for 112 laps and a second-quick 1:20.414. He worked on engine and gearbox reliability, tire evaluation, aerodynamic component comparison, and practice pit stops.
"Today we were able to compare various setups aimed at the tires," Raikkonen said. "One of the novelties of this year compared to last season is that I have a good feeling on the slick tires. I think the teams all seem very closely matched and this makes me think that the coming season will be particularly close."
McLaren started the day with on-track tank draining to test its fuel collection system. Thereafter, testing of the MP4-24 was given to setup before Hamilton called it a day at 58 laps. A wind gust blew the car off Turn 4 and into a barrier. Impact dislodged the rear wing and with less than two hours left in the workday, repair was dismissed. Hamilton's best lap of 1:21.272 came nearly an hour before he crashed.
Red Bull's tire test of Bridgestone's 2010 models fell foul of morning rain. Australian Webber didn't get on track until noon. He put 47 laps on the RB5-02, best of which was a 1:22.219.
Kazuki Nakajima continued setup work and tire and aerodynamic component testing for Williams with 54 laps in the Toyota-powered FW31.
"My two days in Jerez were quite badly affected by poor weather," Nakajima said. "We had strong winds on both days and then some rain this morning as well. When out on track, we worked on our aero package and testing mechanical parts. We had a good run yesterday, doing lots of comparison work, and we now have some good results to take back to the factory. We spent today testing the 2010 tires, which was interesting, and it's given us an idea what running tires without blankets will be like."
Technical director Sam Michael said testing 2010 tires fit with a program pointed toward preparation for the 2009 season, which begins at the end of the month in Melbourne, Australia.
"We finished our five-day test in Jerez today with Kazuki running through the 2010 tire program for Bridgestone," Michael said. "The tires are designed to run without blankets, while the fronts will also be narrower than this year's. Overall, we've had a productive week evaluating aerodynamic components and mechanical setups, as well as putting valuable mileage on engines and transmissions to be ready for Melbourne. Although we have not completed our program fully, the Toyota engine's durability (with the new, longer life regulations) has been extremely impressive."
Toyota's entire day was scheduled for 2010 slick tire testing. So weather restricted Trulli to afternoon laps in the TF109. The Italian completed 38 laps before an excursion over curbs damaged the car's front wing. As with the McLaren, repairs precluded a return to testing.
"That was a short day for us," Trulli said. "We lost the morning to the weather but in the afternoon the wind was still strong. On one run I picked up some damage to the front wing after running over curbs. Still, we made it through a number of runs and collected data for the future. As for this season, this test shows that things are going well for us so we can be confident."
Test team manager Gerd Pfeiffer pronounced the week's test a success.
"Overall, this week has gone very well," Pfeiffer said. "We have been reliable and shown good pace so now we can look forward to our last test of the winter, starting on Monday in Barcelona."
Circuit de Catalunya outside Barcelona, Spain, will e scene of the final formal test teams will have before they ship equipment to the Antipodes.