They're starting to make a habit of this. Once again, Williams has signaled intent with quick times during Formula One winter testing. McLaren and Ferrari, as expected, topped unofficial time charts at the Cicuit de Catalunya in Barcelona,...
They're starting to make a habit of this. Once again, Williams has signaled intent with quick times during Formula One winter testing.
McLaren and Ferrari, as expected, topped unofficial time charts at the Cicuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Lewis Hamilton and world champion Kimi Raikkonen leading the way for their respective marques. But Kazuki Nakajima prevented a lockout by the Big Two. He wedged the Toyota-powered Williams FW30 between Ferrari tester Michael Schumacher in an F2008 and McLaren's other driver, Heikki Kovalainen, in an MP4-23.
Williams race drivers Nico Rosberg and Nakajima topped time sheets last week in Barcelona, but that test was not as well-attended as this week's final opportunity before the season opener in Melbourne, Australia, on the weekend of March 16. Nor did previous sessions include all the F1 driving champions of the 21st century. Schumacher, who won five titles with Scuderia Ferrari, from 2000 to 2004, lent his expertise to helping Raikkonen test reliability and electronics. The other active champion, Fernando Alonso, was down the time charts for Renault.
Only Super Aguri, affected by ongoing sponsorship pursuit, were absent. They miss a test opportunity for the SA08; tests to date have been with an SA07 adapted to reflect rules changes affecting items including drivers aids and electronic control units. Scuderia Toro Rosso put only one driver, Sebastian Vettel, on track in an STR2 as the other new chassis undergoes final race preparation in Italy.
Drivers made a slow start owing to overnight rain that left the track damp through an overcast morning. A dry track by afternoon let them get to work.
Williams test team manager Dickie Stanford was all-business in his assessment, offering little beyond remarks that Nakajima completed setup work and Rosberg, who was sixth-best, focused on engine system checks and completed a race simulation near day's end. Time charts did the talking.
Hamilton's top time of 1 minute, 22.276 seconds on the 4.655-kilometer (2.889-mile) circuit led a tightly bunched effort. Raikkonen followed in 1:22.319, Schumacher in 1:22.428, Nakajima in 1:22.724, Kovalainen in 1:22.852, and Rosberg in 1:22.974.
The Williams effort has been consistent as Renault and BMW Sauber, who might rightly be expected to push McLaren and Ferrari, have lagged. Alonso, who won world driving titles for Renault in 2005 and 2006, and led the team to world constructors titles as well, already has begun to dampen expectations with remarks that the R28 won't be challenging for podiums with immediacy. He ran seventh-quickest with a best lap of 1:23.021, ahead of Nick Heidfeld in a BMW F1.08 in 1:23.075.
As if to assure a New World Order might be under way, the Force India VJM01 of Adrian Sutil followed the manufacturer marques in 1:23.091, good for ninth on the list. He bested Mark Webber in a Red Bull RB4 (1:23.115) and Vettel (1:23.188).
"It was not a bad day today," Sutil said of the team's first effort with two VJM01s. "I think the car ran without any major problems and the balance we got in the end was quite OK.
"For the first day with a new car, I am confident as I can feel there is something more to come."
Although test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi was forced to wait out an engine change, he posted a 1:23.239, good for 12th among 19 drivers. Indeed, his time beat those of manufacturer teams. Toyota's Timo Glock (1:23.270), BMW Sauber's Christian Klien (1:23.442), Renault's Nelson Angelo Piquet (1:23.609), and Toyota's Kamui Kobayashi (1:23.880), rounded out the 1:23s.
In another telling trend, Hondas were again tailenders, Rubens Barrichello and Alex Wurz running RA108s to best laps of 1:24.460 and 1:24.667, respectively, ahead of David Coulthard's Red Bull RB4 in 1:24.826.