Kovalainen tops Silverstone day one

Testing resumed on September 19th and Silverstone was where the most of the activity was to be found. Eight drivers from five teams made up the time sheet and Renault tester Heikki Kovalainen was quickest with a best of 1:19.125 while working on tyres. Nelson A. Piquet made his first appearance as a Renault test driver and was fourth fastest as he acclimatized to the team.

Heikki Kovalainen.
Photo by Alessio Morgese.

"It was a good first day of testing," said Piquet. "There are some similarities with the GP2 car in terms of the clutch and electronics, but I still have a lot to learn, so the main thing for today was to do as much running as possible, and to take everything on-board. It's important I think to learn a lot straight away and to meet the people I am going to work with."

Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta was second quickest, two and a half tenths off Kovalainen, and Franck Montagny was behind the wheel of the second Toyota, third overall. Montagny has been Super Aguri's Friday third driver on several occasions this season but is expected to finalize an agreement to be Toyota's test and third driver next year.

Tyres were their programme. "I am quite happy to have driven for Toyota today," said Montagny. "Overall, I had a really good feeling -- about the car and its handling, the team and everyone who worked with me today. I felt that everyone was very professional and made me feel comfortable."

Spyker MF1 fielded Christijan Albers and debuted GP2 racer Adrian Valles, fifth and seventh fastest respectively. The pair shared the duties with Valles completing 28 laps in his first test and Albers taking over to work on tyres for China and Japan. The team said it was happy with its work for the day.

Sakon Yamamoto was the sole representative of Super Aguri and was sixth on the time sheet. In the morning he worked on aerodynamics and electronics programmes and in the afternoon brakes and tyres were his focus. He will continue on Wednesday and teammate Takuma Sato is also expected at the circuit tomorrow.

Tester Narain Karthikeyan was on duty for Williams but only completed a handful of laps. The team was trying out the Toyota engine, which it will run next year, and the 2007 gearbox. GP2 champion Lewis Hamilton carried out some shakedown laps with McLaren ahead of his first full day's testing tomorrow. He did not set a time.

"Although today's shakedown has just been to familiarise myself with the car, complete radio checks, practice manual launches and that kind of thing, the experience of driving the Team McLaren Mercedes MP4-21 is just fantastic," Hamilton said. "I cannot wait to put in more mileage and really find the limits of the car tomorrow."

Meanwhile, BMW Sauber ran solo at Jerez with Robert Kubica and tester Sebastian Vettel. Kubica was the quicker of the two with a time of 1:17.556 and focused on development of suspension, dampers, set up and aerodynamics. Vettel's programme was mainly electronics and he was over a second off Kubica. They completed just over 150 laps between them.