F1

Nakajima meets Barcelona sun with speed

Nakajima meets Barcelona sun with speed

Williams topped time charts as Kazuki Nakajima pushed the Toyota-powered FW30 to fast lap of the day at a sun-kissed Formula One winter test in Barcelona, Spain. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams F1 Team. Photo by xpb.cc. Two days of wet ...

Williams topped time charts as Kazuki Nakajima pushed the Toyota-powered FW30 to fast lap of the day at a sun-kissed Formula One winter test in Barcelona, Spain.

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

Two days of wet weather had limited programs and kept at least one team, McLaren Mercedes, off track altogether. But Thursday's overcast and damp track to start gave way to enough sun to dry the track and allow setup and aerodynamic work. The only interruptions were a relative handful of red flags for incidents.

Nakajima was one of three Williams drivers busy at work as the fast-approaching season has teams pushing to be ready. The first race is March 16 in Melbourne, Australia.

"Initially it was a bit of a difficult test because of the weather but it was good for me to get some experience in wet conditions," Nakajima said. "The car is feeling good, but we couldn't do as much work with it as we wanted to because of the bad weather. It was still a good week for us though overall."

Strong in tests to date, the McLaren MP4-23s of Heikki Kovalainen and Pedro de la Rosa were pushed to second and third quickest, respectively. As it was, eight of 13 drivers testing lapped within a half-second of one another.

Nakajima led away with a fast lap of 1 minute, 22.153 seconds among unofficial times. Kovalainen sped to a 1:22.185 and de la Rosa to 1:22.208.

Felipe Massa followed in a Ferrari F2008, testing a new aero package. Massa's best lap was 1:22.213. Nico Rosberg followed in a Williams FW30 in 1:22.248, then came the Red Bull RB4s of Mark Webber (1:22.477) and David Coulthard (1:22.499).

Luca Badoer followed Coulthard in the Ferrari F2008. Trailing him were Fernando Alonso in the Renault R28 (1:22.657), Timo Glock in the Toyota TF108 (1:22.901), Nelson Angelo Piquet in the other Renault R28 (1:2.286), Kamui Kobayashi in the other Toyota TF108 (1:24.132), and Nico Hulkenberg in the third Williams (1:24.222).

Williams technical director Sam Michael said chassis setup took precedent once conditions dried out.

"All three drivers were on hand and the mileage they covered was important for us to get race signoff before the Australian Grand Prix," he said.

Driver Nico Rosberg said the week helped sort reliability issues as well as affording all that rain experience.

"We've had plenty of running in the wet this week and we looked pretty good, which was positive," he said. "It wasn't that easy to drive in the conditions, it's hard to keep the tires in the working window, especially without traction control, so you're always quite on the limit. The last day was dry and so we managed to cover a lot of laps with no problems at all.

"We seem to be progressing well with the new car and I am happy with the improvements we're making."

Red Bull test engineer Ian Morgan applauded the week, which brought particular stresses to each team.

"It was the first time this season that we have had the full race crew personnel all attending a test to operate as a team and, as such, it was excellent preparation for Melbourne," he said.

Renault test chief Christian Silk said two days of rain bunched the work.

"The only day of dry running this week, so there was a big push to try and get as much done as possible," he said. "We were reasonably happy with the balance of the car, and just a few small reliability issues. With Nelson, our priority was to continue accumulating miles to get him settled in the car, and we continued with our usual set-up program with Fernando. But overall a frustrating week due to the weather and, hopefully, we will have a better time next week."

Dieter Gass, Toyota's chief engineer for race and test, also seemed thankful for a break in the rain that let Kobayashi test engine, cooling system and setup, and Glock work with new aero fittings.

"Finally we had a day of running in the dry today so we could at last begin meaningful work on our new aerodynamics package," he said. "It was still a difficult day because there were many disruptions for red flags. But on Timo's car we made it through the program of work that we had pencilled in for the first day of this week's test. Kamui also made it through his program and collected some useful data. We will now have to go back and analyse the findings in order to decide which direction to follow up next week."

With BMW Sauber testing privately down in Valencia, only Scuderia Toro Rosso and Force India were absent. All teams are expected to test at the final opportunity, next week in Barcelona.

In Valencia, Christian Klien made his BMW Sauber debut in the F1.08. The former Red Bull race driver completed 32 laps on the 4.005-kilometer (2.488-mile) Ricardo Tormo circuit. Morning overcast kept the course damp before a sunny afternoon offered drier conditions. Klien drove wet tires to a best time of 1:23.857. Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld got the better of conditions, as their times reflected. Kubica ran a quick lap of 1:12.293 in 70 laps and Heidfeld laid down a 1:12.258 in 59 laps as they continued setup work.

"Apart from Thursday afternoon, weather conditions were far from perfect during the three days," Willy Rampf, team technical director, said. "This made work difficult for the engineers. Nevertheless, this was an important and positive test for the team. We were able to complete a race simulation with both cars, including pitstops, without any problems. This underlines the high level of reliability of the new car. In addition, we tested some newly developed parts. We will do more setup work with the F1.08 next week during the final preseason test in Barcelona."

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