No sooner had the flag dropped on the season's first European Grand Prix in Barcelona than the Formula 1 circus had decamped to Paul Ricard, near Marseilles in the south of France. With the next race on the calendar Formula 1's blue riband event around the streets of Monte Carlo, it was time for the teams to sample the 'super soft' Bridgestone tyres not used thus far this season.
Bridgestone's control rubber comes in four variants - hard, medium, soft and super soft. At each race the Japanese company chooses two compounds, with hard and medium available in Barcelona, but Monaco will see the soft tyre selected as the 'prime' and the super soft as the 'option.'
The early part of this week's Ricard test, therefore, has most of the teams working on tyre evaluation with the super soft likely to be used in Monaco qualifying, where grid position is all-important due to the added difficulty of overtaking around the street track's tight confines. Ralf Schumacher was at the wheel today for the first of four days testing and he enjoyed a trouble-free day, setting the second fastest time as he got to grips with the new compound.
The main focus of my test is to concentrate on detail work for Monte Carlo. The car was quite oversteery early in the day and that wasn't helped by the strong gusting winds that, at one point, were moving me over a couple of metres on the main straight. You sometimes get that on a motorway overtaking a lorry on a windy day but it's not a nice feeling at 200mph!"
"People talk about the strong Mistral wind in this part of the world and I certainly experienced it today. Sometimes the wind was so strong that you barely got top gear on the straight but when conditions were calmer we had a productive day, trying a number of set-ups as well as evaluating the super soft and soft tyres for Monaco."
Gerd Pfeiffer, Test Team Manager:
"We had a good day with no reliability issues and got through our programme. Ralf was happier with the set-up later in the day and it has provided a good base for what is an important test. With Monaco coming up we have also been running the super soft and soft Bridgestone tyres. We have a busy schedule to get through, which Ralf will continue tomorrow while Franck Montagny takes over on Thursday and Friday."
Best Lap Time: 1min 06.920s
Total laps: 96
Total distance: 344.928 kms