Thursday, February 12, 2009

A round -up Of the latest Jerez Testing

Heikki Kovalainen moved McLaren’s MP4-24 to the head of the order for 2009 cars at Jerez as teams finally enjoyed fine weather at a pre-season European test.

In stark contrast to the dire conditions that plagued the year’s first group outing at Portimao and partly disrupted Tuesday’s opening day in Spain, Jerez was bathed in warm and sunny conditions on Wednesday to allow some serious dry-weather running.

Sebastien Buemi was again predictably the official pacesetter in Toro Rosso’s 2008 car (clocking 1m17.591s after a mammoth 143 laps) but it was the picture behind that really counted as teams began to get an early indication of where they stand in the early 2009 pecking order.

And it was Kovalainen who won day two’s battle following an encouraging trouble-free 110-lap run in the latest McLaren – although his MP4-24 was running with a modified 2008 rear wing and not the new low-downforce version.

The Finn remained on the same programme as the opening day, focusing on set-up and KERS evaluations, with the team reporting an improving balance following several longer runs and a best time of 1m20.799s.

At the start of the test all eyes in the pit lane had been on Mark Webber, the Red Bull driver returning to action for the first time since breaking his leg at the end of November for his first taste of the team's new RB5.
Indeed encouragingly for both driver and team the Australian made an impressive comeback, appearing to show no ill effects from his injury during his 83 laps and clocking the second fastest time for a 2009 car, 1m21.321s.

His former team Williams meanwhile maintained its positive start to testing as Kazuki Nakajima put another 125 laps on the FW31.
The Japanese driver was just over a tenth of a second adrift of Webber after completing a productive programme which included set-up work plus tyre and reliability testing.
“Kazuki was testing for the team in Jerez today and covered over 550kms while undertaking mechanical set-up tests,” Williams technical director Sam Michael said.

“He also completed a full race simulation without issue.
We are looking forward to another productive day tomorrow when we will carry out more tuning work on the FW31 in preparation for the first grand prix.”

Bringing up the order was again Nelson Piquet Jr as Renault surprisingly continued to find itself at the bottom of the order.
A second day of frustration for the Brazilian was characterised by several small mechanical glitches with the R29 which restricted him to 49 laps.

His running for the week is now over, but he hopes team-mate Fernando Alonso is able to put significantly more mileage on the car over the remaining two days.

"The track conditions were better today and we continued with the work we did yesterday, learning about the car and beginning some basic set-up work," Piquet said.
"Again we didn’t do as many laps as we would have liked as we lost some time after lunch, but we still learnt some interesting things.

"The weather looks good for the rest of the week so the team should be able to get some more important data tomorrow and Friday.”

In addition to Alonso's first appearance of the week, Thursday will also see world champion Lewis Hamilton take to the track for just the second time this winter in McLaren's new car.

The recently confirmed Sebastien Bourdais replaces Buemi at Toro Rosso, while Sebastian Vettel will take over the RB5 again from Webber.

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