F1

Kovalainen quickens F1 test pace

Kovalainen quickens F1 test pace

Sunny, dry and warm -- that is, optimum fast-track -- weather greeted 17 drivers on track for Formula One testing in Valencia, Spain, on Wednesday. A second day of open testing at the 4.005-km (2.488-mile) Ricardo Tormo course saw the pace...

Sunny, dry and warm -- that is, optimum fast-track -- weather greeted 17 drivers on track for Formula One testing in Valencia, Spain, on Wednesday. A second day of open testing at the 4.005-km (2.488-mile) Ricardo Tormo course saw the pace quicken dramatically.

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-23.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Heikki Kovalainen in a McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 dropped heretofore 1 minute, 12-second-plus times to a 1:11 dead.

Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen were the only other drivers in 1:11 territory, Massa again outpacing his world champion teammate. The Brazilian put up a quick lap of 1:11.662, totaling 81 laps on the day. Raikkonen ran 108 laps with a best of 1:11.850. The Ferrari team continued F2008 development with work on set-ups, reliability and starts.

At the other end of unofficial times, Rubens Barrichello debuted Honda's RA108 with an underwhelming best time of 1:14.588, clocking 36 laps. Also for Honda, Takashi Kogure posted a 1:16.761 with 50 laps put up today.

Briton Lewis Hamilton turned a late-afternoon best time of 1:12.076 as mile accumulation continued on the McLaren MP4-23s. Hamilton racked up 115 laps to his Finnish teammate's 92. Long runs sought to test component durability.

BMW Sauber logged a day emphasizing reliability. Robert Kubica posted a quick time of 1:13.230 in an F1.08 while working on mechanical and aerodynamic set-ups. Nick Heidfeld, who turned a 1:12.976 among his 51 laps, ran systems checks and tested suspension parts in an F1.07B with the results to be transferred to the new car. Kubica's 121 laps were the day's top total for one driver.

Williams drivers Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima continued making strong impressions with solidly quick times. Nakajima, focusing on reliability work in the interim FW29B, posted a 1:12.255 lap among 93 run to place on the unofficial timesheets ahead of double world champion Fernando Alonso in a Renault (1:12.360). Close behind them was Rosberg in the new FW30 with a 1:12.493 in 117 laps. Rosberg concentrated on systems checks on the new, Toyota-powered model.

Spaniard Alonso, well supported by home fans turning out in droves to see him, registered excitement about and satisfaction with the R28-01 after he got down to work on the car's balance in 111 laps.

"The next test cannot come soon enough," Alonso said.

Red Bull's Mark Webber took his first turn with the Adrian Newey-prompted RB4, after, it was said, he lost a coin flip with teammate David Coulthard for the honor of debut. With the clock ticking on development time before the season-opening race in Melbourne, Australia, on March 16, Webber rolled to a best time 1:12.594 in amassing 87 laps.

"I'm happy with the new car," Webber said. "Today has been encouraging and, so far, it seems to be a big step forward from last year in terms of reliability and speed, which is great. Now we need to work with what we've got and get it as fast as possible before Melbourne."

Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The Sebs of Scuderia Toro Rosso were back with firm efforts. Working on long runs, the pair accumulated 181 laps, 63 for Sebastian Vettel and 118 for Sebastien Bourdais. Though Vettel had a minor problem that limited his track time, he turned a quick lap of 1:13.015 to Bourdais's 1:13.307.

Adrian Sutil pulled Force India to a 1:13.409 in a day of set-up work through 98 laps. The team continued to address new regulations regarding standard electronic control units.

"Today was a very productive day, completing almost 100 laps with a scheduled engine change at lunch," chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne said. "We completed our program of damper and set-up work and further development of the ECU and had a useful day with no reliability issues."

Sutil, who hands off to Giancarlo Fisichella for Thursday's final day of testing, also was pleased.

"We were able to do quite a few runs in the afternoon and the times were pretty OK and the balance, as usual, was good and getting better," he said. "I'm now back feeling much more comfortable after a long break over Christmas, and I'm much more used to driving without traction control. We're tweaking the settings all the time and getting closer to the edge."

German Timo Glock led Toyota's work on the TF108s with 95 laps and a quick time of 1:13.129. Team veteran Jarno Trulli completed 96 laps, with a 1:13.547 his quickest. That is, each driver completed more than race-distance lapping, focusing on set-up data, aerodynamic evaluations, suspension settings and assorted mechanical adjustments.

"It was a difficult day for me because I did a lot of laps," Trulli said, "and I had to spend the whole day gathering some specific data to send to the factory in order to understand what we can improve on the car. The car was not particularly well balanced, but this was the plan for today in order to study certain aspects of its behavior. I am happy because I completed all the work I had planned. I wasn't looking at lap times at all today; the main thing was to get all the data we needed."

Glock said, "We are understanding more about the car every time we test, and I am quite happy with how things are going."

Chief engineer Dieter Gass said he was again impressed with the TF108's reliability.

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