March 1st was the last day of testing at Bahrain at Felipe Massa proved unbeatable this week with the fastest time on all three days of the test. The Ferrari man clocked 1:29.989 on Thursday -- an unofficial lap record -- and teammate Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest. Both drivers ran a new 056 engine and completed the scheduled development programme for the week.
Splitting the Ferraris were the Renaults of Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella, second and third respectively. Despite some minor mechanical problems they focused on set up and practicing race weekend procedures. Kovalainen was just under four tenths off Massa and chief test engineer Christian Silk was encouraged by the test overall.
"Both drivers completed their programmes, and demonstrated promising performance," he said. "It has been a long, demanding winter for the whole team, and we are now looking forward to see how the R27 performs in race conditions. We have a competitive package, and we are feeling confident, but we will be working hard through the rest of the season to develop and improve the car."
Fernando Alonso, after being a spectator on Wednesday, was back on track and posted the fifth fastest time. Team test driver Pedro de la Rosa was seventh and the pair signed off on the programme of set up, tyres and aerodynamic development with over 200 laps between them.
Honda racers Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button were sixth and 14th respectively. Barrichello focused on set up and tyres over long and short runs while Button began with practice race starts and qualifying simulation then moved on to aerodynamics and electronic control systems.
"Our latest developments for the start of the season have improved the car handling but we still have some work to do in terms of overall pace," said engineering director Jacky Eeckelaert. "We know the areas which need to be improved and the continuous development of the car should allow us to improve the pace to where we would like to be."
Scott Speed rounded off Toro Rosso's week with a respectable eighth fastest. "Last week was a shakedown for us really and every day, more and more parts have arrived here from the factory, which have helped us to improve reliability and performance," said chief engineer Laurent Mekies.
"It really kept our guys busy and they worked very hard. Looking at today's performance especially, with a respectable lap time and 125 laps, it is clear we are working in the right direction, even if there is a lot to do."
Red Bull's David Coulthard was ninth overall and teammate Mark Webber was 11th. They worked on long runs and Webber completed a race distance. Team principal Christian Horner said the time in Bahrain had been useful. "The test has not been trouble free and a few elements still need fixing, but we have made some progress," he commented.
Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica rounded off BMW Sauber's winter test work with 10th and 12th quickest respectively. Heidfeld worked on aerodynamics, dampers and set up while Kubica's focus was long runs, cooling options and also some aero tests. The team described it as a trouble free day.
"The double test in Bahrain was particularly important because of the consistent weather conditions," said technical director Willy Rampf. "We were able to confirm the cooling system and to test the tyre characteristics in high track temperatures and test the entire car under conditions which will be similar to those we expect for the first three races."
Ralf Schumacher was the lead Toyota in 13th and team tester Franck Montagny was 15th. A minor spin for Schumacher didn't hamper him too much but a gearbox issue in the afternoon lost him time, while Montagny had a problem free day and completed two race distances.
"Today we saw some improvement in the car which is positive," said Schumacher. "I had a bit of trouble in the morning when I spun but I was still able to do a lot of laps and that gave us the chance to do quite a bit of work on the last day here. It has been a pretty successful test. We looked at a few different areas and I think we have made some important steps forward."
Super Aguri's Takuma Sato rounded off the time sheet in 16th but his day was stopped at lunchtime when the 'monococque sustained irreparable kerb damage'. There was no specific explanation from the team in regard how the damage came about. That aside, it was generally a productive test.
"We tried various set-ups and made good progress and improvements," said Sato. "The first two days here were quite windy, so it was difficult to do our planned aero tests. But this morning the conditions improved and we were able to complete a lot of aero work and collected a lot of data for our Melbourne package."
At Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya Williams was once again the quicker of the two teams present, Alex Wurz setting a best of 1:21.748. Team test driver Kazuki Nakajima took over from Nico Rosberg and was second quickest, seven and a half tenths down on Wurz.
The Spykers of Adrian Sutil and Christijan Albers were third and fourth respectively. Set up, tyres and evaluating new development parts was the programme for the day. "Today we again did some long runs and tried to bring the tyres in more over the first few laps," said technical director James Key.
"It's still fairly difficult to predict the tyres in cooler conditions but we worked hard and we found some improvements. We had a few mechanical issues after lunch that caused some down time, but considering this is really the only halt in our programme since we started I think we can be proud of our achievements."
For the majority of the teams this week was the last test of the winter season. There will be a little track work next week, including chassis shakedowns, but the next time F1 cars are gathered together en masse will be in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix.