Schumacher leaves Valencia with best time

The week's testing at Valencia came to a close on Friday February 4th with 14 drivers from four teams on duty at the Spanish circuit. Michael Schumacher led the way, the Ferrari champion setting a best of 1:10.207 in the F2004 while working on tyres. Teammate Rubens Barrichello was behind the wheel of the F2004M, focusing on set up and electronics, and was third fastest.

Michael Schumacher.
Photo by David Lopez.

Jenson Button led a quartet of BARs in second quickest, while team test driver Eenrique Bernoldi was ninth. Young Driver Programme pilots Adam Carroll and Alan van der Merwe rounded off the times in 10th and 11th respectively. Button and Bernoldi worked on set up and tyres to conclude BAR's week.

"We made some good steps forward over the test although we do still have some work to do," said Button. "Overall we did a lot of laps which is good for both the tyre work and the reliability of the car leading up to the first race in just over a month."

Nick Heidfeld was the quicker of the two Williams present, fourth, and teammate Mark Webber was sixth. Heidfeld completed the highest mileage of an individual driver for the week with 378 laps, as the pair concentrated on system checks and set up of the new car and tyre work.

"There were no major reliability problems with the FW27 and, as such, the daily mileage the drivers recorded was high," said technical director Sam Michael. "There is a lot of development work to do before Melbourne to ensure that we are in a competitive position and I've no doubt that 2005 will be a long, hard battle for the Championship with competition from all the teams."

Toyota rounded off its week with three cars on track; race drivers Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher fifth and seventh respectively and tester Ricardo Zonta eighth. Through the week the team's work focused on long runs and tyre work and on Friday Zonta completed a shakedown in preparation for wet tyre testing on Saturday.

"The car has been pretty reliable and it also seems to be quick and competitive," said Trulli. "Our best times compared quite favourably with the others, but there are still some problems with consistency over longer runs."

Ralf added: "Looking at the last two tests we look slightly better than we expected. Here at Valencia most of the cars were generally putting in times within about half a second of each other. So we're pleased with what we've seen so far and we appear to be pretty competitive."

At Misano in Italy, Minardi got some running after being unable to work yesterday due to snow. Race driver Christijan Albers was joined by newly signed tester Chanoch Nissany and former Minardi racer Nicolas Kiesa. Albers carried out distance runs, Kiesa assessed software and Nissany continued to acclimatise himself with the car. Albers' best of the day was 1:14.270.

Most teams will return to testing work next week at Jerez.