Trulli tops rain-hit test at Paul Ricard

Trulli tops rain-hit test at Paul Ricard

Despite a sunny end to the afternoon, at times heavy rain showers and cold temperatures throughout affected Formula One testing at the Paul Ricard Circuit in the south of France on Friday. Ferrari and BMW Sauber were among teams concluding the...

Despite a sunny end to the afternoon, at times heavy rain showers and cold temperatures throughout affected Formula One testing at the Paul Ricard Circuit in the south of France on Friday. Ferrari and BMW Sauber were among teams concluding the rain was too intrusive to continue past lunchtime.

Jarno Trulli, Toyota F1 Team .
Photo by xpb.cc.

Jarno Trulli of Toyota, whose sole victory in the sport came at the series' next venue, Monaco, proved quickest on a course set to mimic faster conditions at Canada. The Italian's best lap of 1 minute, 31.360 seconds, per unofficial times, was set in 26 laps. He edged Renault's Nelsinho Piquet, for a second successive day the highest-mileage driver, who ran a 1:31.634 in 60 laps.

On another Toyota front, NASCAR driver Kyle Busch, 23, said he will accept an offer to drive a Toyota F1 car later this year in Japan. Busch drives a Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. Although former Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya quit F1 in 2006 to race stock cars, and former California karter Scott Speed was dropped by Scuderia Toro Rosso and now drives stock cars, no full-time stock car driver has switched to Formula One. Former top-level NASCAR series winner Jeff Gordon tried an F1 car in a television stunt, exchanging cars with then F1 runner Montoya.

Piquet, son of a three-time F1 champion, is seen as needing quick improvement to save his job. Respected magazine AutoHebdo has put forward a scenario by which Piquet is replaced in the coming weeks, possibly through a "shootout" trial between Swiss test driver Romain Grosjean, currently second in the GP2 series for ART, and Takuma Sato, late of defunct Super Aguri.

Renault's version of the day was that Piquet "only completed" 60 laps and that "despite low mileage, it has been a productive test for the team, with most of the objectives completed," and "the team approaches the Monaco Grand Prix in good shape."

"Quite a frustrating day really," Piquet said, "but there was no point in doing lots of miles in the wet conditions. Fortunately, we did a lot of laps yesterday and got most of our work done because we knew that it was likely to be wet today. So a good week overall and I think we are well prepared for Monaco next week."

Said chief test engineer Chrisian Silk, "There was not much to be learnt today because of the poor weather, but Nelson managed a couple of runs in the dry this morning and was pretty happy with the car on the longer circuit and everything was working well on the car. For a lot of the day it was too wet to be safe to run, but when it was safe enough we got out and did some basic set-up work, and gave Nelson some more wet weather experience."

Pushing to nearly as many laps as Piquet was McLaren Mercedes back-up driver Pedro de la Rosa. The Spaniard completed 53 laps with a quick time of 1:32.143. "Despite the rain the team managed to conduct some useful running with particular focus on upcoming Canadian Grand Prix," came the team summary.

Sebastian Vettel followed in the new Scuderia Toro Rosso model, turning 49 laps with a best of 1:32.480. The team's Seb plan was for Vettel then Bourdais to test the STR3, but Vettel started the morning in dry conditions only to have rain splash his effort. Bourdais didn't get his afternoon look-in.

"Sebastian then did a very good job of dealing with a new car in low downforce trim, without traction control on a wet track," chief engineer Laurent Mekies said. "However, the rain really intensified and the track was actually closed until late afternoon. By this time, we had already decided the best option was to pack up and concentrate on our Monaco preparation, so Bourdais did not get to drive today."

In dry then wet conditions, Felipe Massa put down 19 laps in the F2008 with a fifth-best time of 1:33.246 before Ferrari tired of rain, decided the mileage limit to testing didn't warrant continuing, and packed up. Luca Badoer on Tuesday will carry out a shakedown at Ferrari's test track of the cars Massa and Kimi Raikkonen will drive at Monaco.

BMW Sauber, whose Nick Heidfeld had a morning excursion that required repair to the leftside bodywork and suspensions, similarly didn't bother after lunch when heavy rains made a mess of the circuit. Heidfeld did system checks, tested the car with a wet setup, put in a 1:33.371 and completed 30 laps before the early weekend. Bad weather notwithstanding, BMW Sauber engineers pronounced the week of testing a success.

Red Bull test driver Sebastien Buemi dropped time to 1:34.064 in his 16 laps in the RB4. Ever comical Red Bull PR attendants made a point of recording the day's weather in Montreal -- sunny and warm -- before indicating the team tossed in the towel to wet and cold conditions in France. Buemi said, "It was very frustrating, because I have not had much mileage in a Formula 1 car so far this year, so I was looking forward to today. We got a couple of runs in dry conditions, but then as I was meant to be doing a long run test, the rain got much heavier and we decided the most sensible option was to stop running."

Buemi narrowly ran ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella in the Force India VJM01. The Italian veteran, for whom the race in Monaco marks a 200th start, managed to complete 31 laps despite a clutch problem. He posted a 1:34.071.

"As we expected, much of today was a washout," chief race and test engineer Dominic Harlow said. "It was possible to run dry tires briefly at the start of the day with Giancarlo, but, unfortunately, we had a mechanical problem that meant we lost some time in these conditions. The afternoon was also very wet, and Adrian could complete just 13 laps."

Said Sutil, "We did some starts and everything was OK, but with these conditions, it is very difficult to draw any real conclusions."

Fisichella said wet running led to balance improvements, "which could be useful," he said.

Jenson Button spent the morning in aerodynamical evaluation. His efforts failed to produce impressive speed in the Honda RA108. His best lap in 19 was a 1:36.501. "Thursday was a very useful day as we completed our preparations for Monaco," Button said. "The afternoon session was particularly productive as we made some changes to the car which gave positive results. Unfortunately, today has not proved to be as successful due to the rain showers which limited our running to a few dry laps this morning."

Steve Clark, Honda's head of race and test enginering said he was pleased with reliability and productivity despite the limited prep time for Canada.

Fisichella's teammate Adrian Sutil completed 13 laps with a quick lap of 1:43.877. Williams test driver Nico Hulkenberg ran 35 laps with a best time of 1:44.741.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Force India , Toro Rosso , Williams , Joe Gibbs Racing