The Renault F1 Team today began a three-day test session in Barcelona with Heikki Kovalainen and Nelson Piquet Jr. at the wheel of the R26.
This sessions marks the Renault F1 Team's debut using Bridgestone tyres, and the objectives for the week are to learn as much as possible about the tyres and to give the drivers the opportunity to adapt their driving to them.
The latest testing agreement also provides for a reduction in the number of tyres used by the teams during testing, to avoid the need for Bridgestone to manufacture and transport excessive quantities of tyres. Both drivers therefore had access to three sets of tyres each for their running today.
This first test since the team's double championship victory will also be used to complete reliability running on new components to be used in 2007.
Heikki Kovalainen began preparations for his Grand Prix debut next March in Melbourne in diligent fashion. He completed a substantial 91-lap programme without any problems, setting a fastest lap of 1:19.188.
As for Nelson Piquet Jr., he continued to learn about the team and the car while running the first laps with the new 2007 gearbox in a 'hybrid' R26 chassis. He finished the day 9th fastest with a best time of 1:18.848.
"We had a very interesting first day at Barcelona running the Bridgestone tyres, and I think we collected a lot of important data. The tyres are very different to those I have used so far in Formula 1: there is less grip overall*, and we need to be a bit more careful in how we drive as well as adapting our style. But I am already confident I can adapt to them quickly, and that the team will have no problems understanding how to get the best from them."
Nelson Piquet Jr:
"This was my first day of F1 testing at Barcelona, and I completed my programme without any problems and did a lot of laps. I am quite pleased with this first day because my aim was simply to run as much as possible to continue learning about the car."
Christian Silk, Chief Test Engineer:
"This was a good first day back at work for the team and the drivers. We primarily focused on learning about the new Bridgestone tyres, going about the work in our usual methodical way without worrying about topping the timesheets. It is always important to learn and understand how we need to work with a new partner. We began that process today at the track, and will continue to develop our partnership throughout this week of testing."
* The 2007-specification tyres were expected to provide less grip than those used during the 2006 season, as they are generally made of harder compounds, as well as providing a wider operating window than the 2006 products to enable every team to extract maximum performance from the tyres.