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Nakajima closes Jerez tests on top

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Nakajima closes Jerez tests on top

Funny thing about racing. Even when only two drivers are on track, we still want to know who was quickest. Thus, the final day of preseason testing Thursday for the Formula One season will be long remembered -- ha! -- for Williams F1 runner...

Funny thing about racing. Even when only two drivers are on track, we still want to know who was quickest. Thus, the final day of preseason testing Thursday for the Formula One season will be long remembered -- ha! -- for Williams F1 runner Kazuki Nakajima as top finisher.

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams F1 Team, FW31.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Or final preparation for a season that begins a mere week from now might note that two more drivers joined Jenson Button's sub-1:18 lap of 2.75-mile Circuito de Jerez in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Nakajima laid down a 1:17.494 with Heikki Kovalainen of McLaren Mercedes close behind in 1:17.946. Drivers enjoyed sunny skies and a track temperature of more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, ideal for preparing for Australia in March.

Nakajima continued setup tuning, aerodynamics evaluation, reliability checks and tire comparisons. He covered 102 laps.

"Kazuki was back in the cockpit today, working through last-minute reliability and performance items that required sign-off for Melbourne," technical director Sam Michael said. "We have put over 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) on the FW31 in the last two months and, while there are always areas that require attention, reliability has been good. We've also been working hard with Toyota to achieve good reliability on the engine's working range, which has been subject to a reduction in revs but an increase in mileage. Considering the time we've had to do this, the work has gone well.

"At Williams, we are fortunate in that we have an exceptionally strong group of people on our test team who really are the unsung heroes of the sport. Our crew has worked flat out over the winter, repeatedly taking the FW31 apart and putting it back together, checking everything over and over again to ensure reliability and re-building the car after incidents, all of which is usually done late into the night. We thank them for their tremendous efforts over the past few months and for their contribution to the FW31."

Kovalainen had a last-minute parts test on the MP4-24 after new components arrived overnight from the McLaren Technology Centre in England. The Finn completed 84 laps.

Elsewhere, drivers, including retired all-time titlist Michael Schumacher, continued to react to unprecedented rules changes shortly before the start of a season. Rules changes this week will give the drivers' title to the winner of more races, and teams will be allowed to choose a "budget cap" financing plan that will give them greater technical freedom.

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-24, detail.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Schumacher, who won seven driving titles and whose dominance resulted in the points system modified this week, posted remarks on his website that he was "astonished" that the FIA approved rules changes so quickly after years of maintaining quick changes couldn't be done. He questioned the wisdom of bypassing the driver with the highest points accumulation in selecting a champion. He also cited the riskiness of introducing kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) in a season with restricted testing.

Double world champion Fernando Alonso told his website that the changes are not needed and stand to confuse fans.

Jarno Trulli of Toyota told Italian newspaper La Stampa that the change in championship determination offers more downsides than upsides. Red Bull's Mark Webber told BBC Sport that drivers might be more aggressive in races but that the title might be decided earlier in a season and the championship race now diminishes consistency.

By the way, Schumacher likes Ferrari, Renault, Williams, Toyota, BMW Sauber and Brawn GP as front-runners.

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