Heavy overnight rain that continued into morning hampered testing by nine Formula One teams assembled at Jerez, Spain, on Monday as morning runs were scaled back until track water cleared. Brighter afternoon weather allowed laps on dry tires.
Drivers who went out before the track cleared were entertained with their first crack at traction control-free cars in the wet. The test marked the first with 2008 technical specifications in place. Most notable among spec revisions is the elimination of the driver aid known as traction control. Teams also worked with gearboxes intended for use through four races.
World champions Ferrari led times as defending driving titlist Kimi Raikkonen posted the only time under 1 minute, 20 seconds (1:19.845) on the 4.423-kilometer (2.748-mile) Circuito de Jerez. Teammate Felipe Massa was right behind on 1:20.123. Raikkonen completed 59 laps to Massa's 43.
McLaren and Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers were the only others to post 1:20s. Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel posted a 1:20.732 (40 laps) in the STR2-02. McLaren's veteran tester Pedro de la Rosa ran a 1:20.883 in covering 54 laps in the MP4-23. New McLaren driver Heikki Kovalainen posted a 1:20.936 (49 laps) in the MP4-23. And series rookie Sebastien Bourdais, the four-time Champ Car champion, ran a 1:20.997 (47 laps) in the STR2-01.
Renault made its 2008 track debut with newly promoted test driver Nelson Angelo Piquet at the wheel of the R27-06 as the team worked on engine mapping and understanding new electronic regulations, which include that all teams use a standard electronic control unit. The R28 is scheduled for its public presentation in Paris at the end of the month. Piquet, whose teammate, two-time world driving champion Fernando Alonso, is scheduled to drive Tuesday, ran 41 laps with a quick lap of 1:21.595.
"I would certainly have liked the chance to get more time in the car today," Piquet said. "But the conditions this morning were not ideal for either wet or dry tires and so we had to wait for the weather to improve. I'm still happy to get back on track for the first time this year and get my preparartions under way. I am aware that there are lots of things that need to be done, and there is a lot of hard work ahead. But that is why we are here."
Rain slowed Renault's progress but the test team's chief engineer Christian Silk said the team enjoyed a good day overall.
"Nelson was back behind the wheel today for the first time as a race driver, but the wet weather this morning reduced his running," Silk said. "But the conditions improved thoughout the day, and he did a good job, which enabled us to complete the program we had planned. We have a good basis on which to build for the remaining two days of the test."
Test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi did the shakedown work on the Force India car, which suffered hydraulic gremlins, running 44 laps to a best time of 1:23.035.
"We have improved from the last test we did here and the car seemed to respond better than last time, so that was already better," Liuzzi said. "It was quite a difficult day, though, as we had a few mechanical problems and we had to wait in the garage for a while, so we didn't put in too many laps, but the few laps we did I think were pretty positive."
Force India chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne called the day productive and useful.
"It was good to start working with Tonio," he said of Liuzzi, "who did a very good job for the team."
Red Bull's David Coulthard took out an RB3 sans traction control and engine braking for 51 laps that produced a 1:21.745. Mark Webber is expected to debut the new car, the RB4, on Wednesday.
Super Aguri found trouble right away as plans to evaluate cooling options on the interim car, the SA07B-06, were called off after a hydraulic problem arose, forcing the team to wait a day for spare parts. Test driver James Rossiter's quick lap,1:34.862 on wet tires, was slowest, and he turned the day's fewest laps, 10.
Williams drivers Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima combined for 89 laps in interim FW29B cars, Rosberg posting a 1:21.143 and Nakajima a 1:23.134. Toyota lead driver Jarno Trulli ran 86 laps in the new car, the TF108, with a best of 1:21.344. Timo Glock drove a TF107 with new gearbox and ECU, and added 58 laps for the Cologne, Germany, based team.