Massa ends Bahrain test with fastest time

Felipe Massa logged multiple miles and led fast times Thursday as Ferrari, BMW Sauber and Toyota wrapped up a fortnight of Formula One testing in Bahrain. The Brazilian world driving championship runner-up completed 113 laps with a quick time of 1 minute, 32.162 seconds on a sunny day in the Arabian Gulf that grew windy by afternoon. Teams enjoyed optimal weather to close their two-week stay at Sakhir. Air temperatures reached 75 Fahrenheit with track temps just under 90 at 3.3-mile Bahrain International Circuit.

Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.

Massa didn't escape being stranded in the F60, though. Early in the day he was caught out by a faulty cable that messed with electrics. Beyond that he worked through various setups, concentrated on aerodynamic configurations, and continued to put miles on the car to test engine and gearbox reliability.

"Today was a good day apart from some minor problems that held us up a bit," Massa said. "We have to work on that to avoid that they come back. And the strong wind bothered us a bit. We drove many kilometers to improve the car and I think we're heading in the right direction."

Massa said he saw balance among the teams at Bahrain and said he thinks that extends to the rest of the teams as well. He and teammate Kimi Raikkonen covered 2,224 test miles and, Massa said, made up for miles lost to sandstorms last week. Best lap of the fortnight was Raikkonen's 1:32.102. They next test in Spain next month. Although wind bothered Massa, he didn't mention dogs. Ferrari reported the presence of dogs, which red-flagged work earlier in the week, brought out yellow flags Thursday.

Nick Heidfeld was again at the wheel of the BMW Sauber F1.09. He worked on suspension and aerodynamic settings. Mechanical problems reared twice, but he carried on to end the day with practice starts and long runs. He contributed 122 laps -- with a best of 1:32.225 -- to a total of 2,295 miles of test mileage for the Swiss-German team.

"Today the track conditions were the best they have been all week," Heidfeld said. "We could already try a couple of improvements. The car reacts to changes as planned, so I'm confident we are working in the right direction."

Technical coordinator Willy Rampf echoed Heidfeld's optimism and cited gains with the kinetic energy recovery system.

"Although we lost some time due to a sandstorm last week, the long test in Bahrain was very productive," Rampf said. "We could work with the cars in temperatures we would not have encountered in Europe at this time of the year, making it good preparation for the first races of the upcoming season. We worked mainly on the general setup of the BMW Sauber F1.09, trying numerous solutions on the mechanical and aero side of the car as well as gaining experience with the three available tire compounds. We also made good progress with KERS. Overall, we reached our target of collecting as much data as possible about the car's reactions to changes in the setup."

After racking up miles and miles of data, Toyota limped out of Sakhir after hydraulics problems limited Timo Glock's setup work to 65 laps in the TF109. His best lap, 1:32.445, put him within a third of a second of Massa.

"It was a pity that our last day of work here was disrupted, but this still has been a very successful test for us," Glock said. "It was a shame to lose running time. But the mechanics did a good job, and when we made it back onto the track we put in some useful work."

Team senior general manager Pascal Vasselon called the problem hydraulic oil contamination whose diagnosis took the team on a mystery tour.

"It took time to find out which component was causing the problem," Vasselon said. "Nonetheless, this test has gone extremely efficiently. The weather has been good despite the wind and the sand, and we have been able to use the full mileage on the parts that we brought to Bahrain. That shows we have good reliability, and we can approach the start of the season with a very good database."

Vasselon said the team are gaining a clearer understanding of the 2009 regulations' impact on setup and performance.

"We are pleased with how these two weeks have gone," he said.

The F1 teams next test will be in Spain the first week in March.