Hamilton fastest at Paul Ricard test

Hamilton fastest at Paul Ricard test

Formula One teams tested Wednesday at the all-everything configuration-capable Paul Richard track in the south of France. They took advantage of sunny weather and warm temperatures on a 2.2-mile, high-downforce pattern to work on setups for the ...

Formula One teams tested Wednesday at the all-everything configuration-capable Paul Richard track in the south of France. They took advantage of sunny weather and warm temperatures on a 2.2-mile, high-downforce pattern to work on setups for the Monaco Grand Prix, the next race, in 11 days' time. By Friday the configuration is scheduled to change to a low-downforce layout to simulate conditions at Montreal. The Canadian Grand Prix follows two weeks after Monaco.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes .
Photo by xpb.cc.

Bridgestone provided the two tire compounds it will offer at Monte Carlo: "soft" and "supersoft." Drivers were on their own to imagine tire applications on the bumpy Monagasque streets instead of the smooth but more abrasive Ricard course.

Lewis Hamilton, whose slowest sector times at the Turkish Grand Prix were on the slowest, twistiest bit of Istanbul Park, topped time charts in his McLaren Mercedes with a lap of 1 minute, .05.600 seconds. Hamilton is on record as saying McLaren can win on the Monte Carlo course where he ran second to then teammate Fernando Alonso last year, but the challenge from Ferrari is stronger this year. As if to prove that, Kimi Raikkonen (1:06.098) ran second-quick Wednesday. Hamilton covered 84 laps, Raikkonen 103.

Robert Kubica (1:06.177; 124 laps) ran third in BMW Sauber ahead of Mark Webber (1:06.348; 93) of Red Bull. Kubica and Webber concentrated on race setup. The BMW Sauber team fine tuned aerodynamics, suspension and engine electronics. The car developed an oil leak that prompted an engine change. Webber tried new aerodynamic bits on the RB4 and used both versions of tires.

Teams introduced new bodywork pieces, especially noses, wings or engine covers.

Scuderia Toro Rosso put the new STR3 in the hands of Sebastian Vettel (1:06.372; 99). His teammate, Sebastien Bourdais, wrote off the first such model in testing at Barcelona, which delayed introduction of the STR3's race use, expected in Turkey. The car will see its first race in Monte Carlo. Vettel ran through standard start-up checks and worked with both sets of tires. The Ricard course calls for a harder compound than either of those. A faulty transponder misrecorded Vettel's laps, showing a lower number than he completed. He said he was pleased with the car's balance.

Vettel's fifth-best time edged that of Williams's Nico Rosberg (1:06.571), who pounded out a day-high 154 laps. Williams added an air-cutter engine cover fin to the FW30. Honda experimented with new versions of the RA108's nose wings. Quickest of the test drivers on hand, Alexander Wurz ran the Honda to a 1:06.681 in 131 laps. The Austrian was followed by Toyota driver Timo Glock (1:06.936, 93).

Test drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi of Force India (1:07.346, 106) and Lucas di Grassi of Renault (1:07.430, 146) rounded out the list of runners. Liuzzi did basic setup work and tested Monaco aero specs and downforce adjustments on the harder of the two tire compounds.

"Today's program run on the short-track simulation circuit layout was to evaluate a complete new front suspension for the VJM01 and to validate the package of aerodynamic changes that will be race in Monaco next week," Force India chief race and test engineer Dominic Harlow said. "During a busy day, the team also worked on some ongoing development items in other mechanical areas of the car."

Liuzzi said balance was the first order of the day.

"We had to work on the balance at first to adjust to the new items, but over the longer runs it was very consistent and we could make some steps forward," he said. "As we only used the hard tire today, the lap times were pretty good in comparison to the other teams who used the soft tire, which gives a big performance advantage over the harder compound. I think today was quite a good start for the test."

Renault also tested new development pieces. Di Grassi was among high-mileage testers.

"Today we were preparing the car for the race in Monaco next week and so we needed to test some new parts to make sure that everything was OK," Di Grassi said. "The day was quite productive and we tested most of what we needed to, and I was happy to be back in the car and to complete so many laps. So, a good day's work."

Renault's chief test engineer, Christian Silk, said high mileage was a key because rain seems on the way.

"It was a reasonable first day of running, with good mileage and so we were able to complete quite a lot of our test objectives. We did so much running because the weather forecast for the rest of the week is a bit uncertain, and so if the weather does deteriorate, we've got as much work done as possible."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber , Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Alexander Wurz , Lewis Hamilton , Sébastien Bourdais , Nico Rosberg , Vitantonio Liuzzi , Robert Kubica , Timo Glock , Sebastian Vettel
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Force India , Toro Rosso , Williams