Kovalainen takes McLaren top at Silverstone test

Heikki Kovalainen topped unofficial time charts as testing by Formula One teams continued Wednesday at England's Silverstone Circuit. Site of the next series race, Silverstone testing gives teams a chance to test new bits, such as Ferrari's new aero parts, test Bridgestone tires to be used for the race, and to work on setups for the race.

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

Kovalainen covered the 3.194-mile course in 1 minute, 20.015 seconds as cars encountered drizzle then gusting winds. French Grand Prix podium placer Jarno Trulli followed with a 1:20.391 in 95 laps. Nico Rosberg of Williams, Nelsinho Piquet of Renault, Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Toro Rosso and Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber were the other drivers in the 1:20s.

"Today's main focus was preparation for the British Grand Prix and it was a good day," Trulli said. "We managed to do a lot of laps and we learned several useful things. It all went smoothly and we ran without any real issues. There was a lot of gusting wind out there today, which can make direct comparisons difficult.

"Still, we made some progress with our setup and aerodynamics program. We are obviously looking to build on our result at last Sunday's French Grand Prix. Now I hope we will be in good shape for another strong race here next week."

BMW Sauber's program ended early because the gusty conditions played havoc with the aero package the team wanted to test. Beyond that, mileage restrictions kicked in to make it an early day. Kubica covered 67 laps and posted a sixth-best 1:20.982.

Piquet, who scored points in a race for the first time in France, can make good use of time on the Silverstone track to build on that success.

"The track conditions were better than yesterday, although it was quite windy and that made it difficult to be consistent," Piquet said. "But this is not unusual for Silverstone and it was good experience to run in these conditions as we can expect similar weather for the race.

"Our program was based around improving the setup of the car and general race preparation, which went well. I'm now looking forward to the race here next week."

Fast lapper for the first day, Felipe Massa, was seventh-fastest in a Ferrari F2008 in 1:21.069. Massa continued testing Ferrari's new aero package and worked on setup for British GP He completed 69 laps. Several red flags interrupted session flow.

"The last two days have been quite positive," Massa said. "We pretty much did all of what we had set out to do and the first signs are encouraging. We are working in the right direction, and I think we will also be competitive at this track even it it is much too early to say where we are compared to others. There are too many unknowns to take into consideration when it comes to testing times."

Massa was followed by Mark Webber in a Red Bull RB4, Jenson Button in a Honda RA108, and Giancarlo Fisichella in a Force India VJM01, whose work ended at 52 laps when he crashed heavily at Becketts. The Italian was taken to the course medical center.

"It's a real shame we couldn't do more running in the afternoon as this morning it was all looking quite good," Fisichella said. "The car felt quicker even though the balance was not so good because of the high winds.

"Unfortunately, I just got caught out by a change in grip and balance going through Becketts and went off the track and hit the barriers. I wasn't hurt at all, but I did not take my hands off the wheel and they had to do some checks to make sure my wrist was OK."

Button put in the day's hardest labor, 106 laps. His Honda was the only car not to finish the French Grand Prix. After showing hope in earlier races, the RA108 has been mired as other teams have improved in past weeks.

Teams conclude testing Thursday.