McLaren ends Monza test on top

Testing at Monza came to a close on August 31st and McLaren kept its form at the top of the time sheet for the fourth consecutive day. Once again the morning was disrupted by poor track conditions but later on test driver Pedro de la Rosa clocked 1:23.285 while working on tyres, aerodynamics, brakes and set up in preparation for the Italian Grand Prix.

Pedro de la Rosa.
Photo by Dave Dyer.

McLaren might have led the way but Ferrari's Felipe Massa was just four thousandths of second behind. Massa managed 67 laps after lunch when the track improved and concluded a set up programme for the upcoming GP at this circuit. Scuderia tester Luca Badoer will shake down the cars for the race at Fiorano next week.

BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica was third overall and like most others he didn't get down to work until the afternoon. He focused on mechanical set up and electronics, as well as tyres. Nico Rosberg was on duty to round off Williams' week and was fourth fastest, just under seven tenths off de la Rosa.

Williams test team manager Dickie Stanford commented: "The rain affected our programme again today with the circuit only really drying out late morning. Despite the limited track time, we managed to work our way through all the set-up preparations we needed to for the Monza race. Thanks to the guys who have all done a really good job this week, particularly considering the poor weather."

The Toyota of Ralf Schumacher was fifth on the list but he was frustrated that his track time was compromised by the weather. "I was concentrating on mechanical aspects of the set-up but at the end of the day I still felt that we had work to do," he said. "It was also difficult to make meaningful comparisons at the end of the session when someone lost an engine and oil went down at turn one."

Honda's Jenson Button only completed two laps in the morning but managed 61 in the afternoon and was sixth quickest. "The main focus was preparing the set-up of the car ahead of the race," he said. "We ran the Monza aero package with new front and rear wings which worked pretty much as expected, along with revised suspension components required for the unique demands of this circuit."

Tonio Liuzzi was seventh for Toro Rosso and worked on the aero package for the Italian GP. "In our case this consisted of new front and rear wings as well as a new engine cover," said chief engineer Laurent Mekies. "So we spent time doing back-to-back tests to evaluate these elements. In addition, we worked on fine tuning car set-up for the Italian Grand Prix while also working on car systems and gearbox strategy, as well as the standard tyre comparison work."

Super Aguri's Anthony Davidson was eighth overall and completed the most laps of the day, 110. He practiced race starts, carried out set up evaluation and worked on tyres. "We completed some long runs and it was good to drive the low downforce aero package," he said. "The car felt well balanced and I think that we are well prepared for the race next week."

Red Bull's David Coulthard rounded off the times in ninth. The Scot ran on a race fuel load while evaluating aerodynamic updates, as well working on tyres and set up. Despite the poor weather chief test engineer Ian Morgan said it had been a productive test.

"We have achieved high mileages with a number of components that had durability problems in recent races so we seem to have made progress in that area," he commented. "The aero work has produced some encouraging results and, despite the rain, we managed to get through all our usual pre-race work in preparation for next week's Italian Grand Prix."