Fernando Alonso finally extracted the pace from Renault's new R29 that the team has been waiting for since the machine's low-key debut last month, by giving his supporters something to cheer about at last with the fastest lap time on the penultimate day of testing on home turf at Jerez.
On a windy and overcast day in southern Spain, Alonso saw to it that Renault – which has dropped the biggest hint yet that it may soon be on its way out of Formula 1 [see separate story – click here
] – left the Andalusian circuit on a high, covering 130 laps and lopping three tenths off his best effort from the previous day to end proceedings comfortably clear of his nearest challenger.
On a productive day, the man from Oviedo put more mileage on the Régie's
rapidly-improving 2009 contender whilst evaluating new developments and carrying out set-up work. The team will return to the test track next week at Barcelona.
“I'm very happy with the result from this test,” remarked Alonso, “as we had two trouble-free days, a very consistent car and the work we have done has been very useful. It was really windy today, especially from mid-morning onwards, which made it difficult to understand some of the set-up changes, but all the teams were in the same position and we were still able to learn some important things about the car.
“I would like to thank the team for all their hard work this week, as I know they have worked very hard to make sure we could do everything we needed to.”
“We had a good day,” concurred the Enstone-based outfit's chief test engineer Christian Silk, “and it was a really positive way to end the test. It's been a tough week for the mechanics who have had to work really hard, just as the guys back at the factory have done to get everything out here for this test.
“We've shown excellent reliability, got good miles on the car and done some good set-up work, which has set us up nicely for our test next week in Barcelona.”
Second-quickest, more than three tenths adrift, was fellow former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, who started his day early but later found his progress halted by a hydraulic issue that took some time to be rectified. After the problem had been dealt with, the Finn returned to the fray to conduct long runs and pit-stop practice, under the watchful eye of record-breaking seven-time title-winner and now Ferrari advisor Michael Schumacher. Satisfied with the progress made, Raikkonen will remain behind the wheel for the final day of the test on Thursday.
Next up on the timesheets was Nick Heidfeld for BMW-Sauber, almost three tenths in arrears further still. The experienced German concentrated his efforts on mechanical set-up work on the Munich and Hinwil-based concern's F1.09, in addition to tyre comparisons, brake development, race start simulations and a so-called 'run-out-of-fuel run' which resulted in him stopping out on the track – a standard procedure that enables engineers to compare telemetry readings with the car's actual fuel level.