F1

Last test of the year under way at Jerez

Last test of the year under way at Jerez

The last test session of 2006 is under way at Jerez de la Frontera and after Toyota had the track to itself on Tuesday, 17 drivers from 10 teams were at the Spanish circuit on Wednesday December 13th. Renault's Heikki Kovalainen topped the times...

The last test session of 2006 is under way at Jerez de la Frontera and after Toyota had the track to itself on Tuesday, 17 drivers from 10 teams were at the Spanish circuit on Wednesday December 13th. Renault's Heikki Kovalainen topped the times with a best of 1:19.466 and teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was fifth fastest.

Heikki Kovalainen.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The 2007 gearbox and tyre work were their focus. "It was a good first day of testing," said chief test engineer Christian Silk. "We completed our programme on both cars and enjoyed a trouble-free day which is quite satisfying as we are running the two cars with the new gear box this week."

Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer was second quickest, four tenths off Kovalainen, and Felipe Massa was seventh on the time sheet for the Scuderia. Continuing from last week's session, their programme was development of the new gearbox and mechanical components, engine reliability and tyres.

The Hondas of testers Christian Klien and James Rossiter were third and fourth respectively. Tyres were their main programme but Klien also completed some electronic work and aero evaluation, while Rossiter carried out set up work and also some aerodynamic tests. Both are scheduled to continue on Thursday.

Pedro de la Rosa was the lead McLaren in sixth and fellow team test driver Gary Paffett was 11th. Continuation of tyre tests in the MP4-21 chassis was their main focus as well as set up and wheel specification evaluation. Also on the agenda was work on new components for the MP4-22. Lewis Hamilton is scheduled to join de la Rosa on Thursday.

Nick Heidfeld was the quicker of the two BMW Saubers on track, eighth overall, and tester Sebastian Vettel was 12th. Both worked on set up, the new gearbox and tyres, while Heidfeld also tested new components and Vettel aerodynamics and system checks. Robert Kubica takes over from Vettel tomorrow.

Toyota had Jarno Trulli and test driver Franck Montagny on duty, ninth and 10th respectively. Trulli suffered no problems during his tyre work but Montagny lost time due to a minor issue with the fuel tank. The engineers managed to fix the problem and he was back out on track in the afternoon.

"I managed to complete a lot of laps and I was mainly trying different things on the car to find a good balance," sad Trulli. "It was my first time on the new tyres at Jerez and they are obviously much slower than last year's tyres were around here. There is a lot of work we need to do to understand them fully but so far so good."

Williams tester Kazuki Nakajima was 13th on the time sheet. "The aim was for him to complete a sufficient number of laps to be able to qualify for a super licence, which he comfortably achieved," said test team manager Mike Condliffe. "Towards the end of the session, Kazuki practised starts to familiarise himself with the procedure. He has had a very successful day and should be very pleased with his performance."

Nakagama was followed by the Super Aguri of Takuma Sato in 14th. After new teammate Anthony Davidson conducted the first of the winter tests, Sato was back in the cockpit to carry out an initial tyre evaluation programme and also worked on set up and the Honda engine.

Red Bull test driver Michael Ammermuller was 15th overall and sister team Toro Rosso fielded Tonio Liuzzi and Sebastian Bourdais, 16th and 17th. It was Bourdais' debut with the team but the Champ Car champion is planning to defend his title in the States next year and is not likely to seriously look at a move to F1 until 2008 -- providing he gets an offer, that is.

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