Formula One was back in action on November 28th as winter testing commenced at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, with 16 drivers from nine teams at the Spanish track. Ferrari's Felipe Massa topped the time sheet with a best of 1:17.174 and team test driver Luca Badoer was third quickest. Set up and new components were their programme for the day.
McLaren fielded tester Pedro de la Rosa, just under three tenths off Massa in second, and Lewis Hamilton was sixth on his debut as race driver for the team. They evaluated Bridgestone tyres in regard to the balance of the car and also front and rear wings and car floor assessments. Hamilton had a minor engine issue but was soon back on track.
BMW Sauber racers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica were fourth and seventh fastest respectively. Heidfeld focused on transmission but Kubica's tyre work was delayed early on as the low temperatures weren't very good for the first test with the Bridgestone rubber. He also worked on new components.
Rubens Barrichello was the lead Honda in fifth and team tester James Rossiter was eighth overall. As with the many other teams that have made the switch to Bridgestone tyres, evaluation was the main focus, along with general set up work. Christian Klien, the team's new official test and third driver, will get his first run in the car tomorrow.
Alex Wurz, previously Williams tester but next year's racer, was ninth on the time sheet and was the team's sole representative. He was followed by Renault test driver Nelson A. Piquet in tenth and the French squad's racer for 2007, Heikki Kovalainen, was 12th. Acclimatizing to the Bridgestone tyres was the focus while assessing new components is also planned at this test.
"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," said Renault chief test engineer Christian Silk. "It is always important to learn and understand how we need to work with a new partner."
Splitting the two Renaults was the Super Aguri of 2007 racer Anthony Davidson. The former Honda third driver evaluated tyres and ran set up programmes in the interim car while getting used to his new team.
Tonio Liuzzi was the best of the Red Bull collective, his Toro Rosso 13th and teammate Scott Speed one behind in 14th. Red Bull new boy Mark Webber outdid old hand David Coulthard, the Australian 15th and the Scot rounding off the times in 16th. Webber is not totally new to Red Bull as he raced for the team in its previous incarnation as Jaguar.
Webber's experience with Bridgestone rubber at Williams is not much advantage to Red Bull, according to chief test engineer Ian Morgan, as the 2007 tyres will be different specifications. "Today and the next few tests are all about developing an understanding of these new tyres and adapting the car to suit their characteristics," he said.