A third day of torrential rain welcomed the Formula 1 teams on the fourth and final day of pre-season testing at the Algarve Motor Park in Portugal - only this time the downpour was heavy enough to wipe out the running altogether.

With the heavens remaining open day-long and poor visibility on-track, most of the five teams present completed no more than an installation lap, as mechanics took shelter in the garage for the entire session and the Portim?o circuit was ultimately closed by officials on safety grounds when the medical helicopter was unable to take off due to the mist.

"From a testing point-of-view, the weather was a problem, with only a bit of time on slick tyres on Wednesday," confirmed Scuderia Toro Rosso new boy S?bastien Buemi, who had set the pace on each of the first three days.

"On Tuesday, there was such a heavy hailstorm that it was even hurting my hands - by the time I got back to the pits I was just driving on ice, and the car was going all over the place! I still have a lot to take on-board, in terms of learning all the different procedures on the car, such as how to manage the starts, but everything is going in the right direction.

"Being confirmed as a race driver for next year doesn't change anything once you're alone at the wheel, but in terms of working with the team, it brings an added sense of confidence, as the engineers and mechanics know they will be working with me all year."

The young Swiss rookie even drove two laps of the track in a road car in the afternoon to judge conditions, but with no proper running possible the Red Bull 'junior' concern now looks ahead to its next test at Jerez in southern Spain, beginning on 10 February, where Renault will also be present.

"A very wet day!" quipped the R?gie's double F1 World Champion talisman driver Fernando Alonso. "It's a shame we couldn't get anything done today, because at this stage of the season you need to maximise the track time available.

"Still, I was pleased to have a full day in the dry yesterday and we learnt a lot and have some valuable data. I will be in the car for the next test in Jerez, where hopefully we can make some good progress with the performance."

"Although it has been a wet week, overall it has been an encouraging first test with the new car," added the French squad's chief test engineer Christian Silk. "At the moment the main things we are concentrating on are reliability and safety, and in those respects the car has been excellent.

"It's disappointing how the weather has worked out this week, as we couldn't look at the performance and could only really put mileage on the car. We're now looking forward to the Jerez test next month, where we can hopefully get down to some proper performance work."

On a brighter note for Renault, the Enstone-based outfit announced a new official supplier agreement with Italian travel and business luggage producer Piquadro.

"We are delighted to begin this relationship with Piquadro," enthused managing director Flavio Briatore. "Formula 1 involves a great deal of travelling, and we were looking for a partner who could provide a high-technology product in-line with our image standards. Research and innovation are common values to both companies, and we think that Piquadro is the best partner to accompany the ING Renault F1 Team in all their travels around the world."

"I am very pleased with the partnership with the ING Renault F1 Team and by the fact we will supply our suitcases and travel bags to their entire race team", concurred Piquadro president and CEO Marco Palmieri. "The ING Renault F1 Team is a prestigious partner and we share the relentless quest for high quality standards and the determination to reach our targets - and of course a great passion for racing."

Back at the circuit, meanwhile, Timo Glock had planned a programme of set-up and mechanical testing behind the wheel of his Toyota TF109 - but he too found his intentions impossibly frustrated by the weather, and must now wait until 10 February in Bahrain to resume his on-track pre-season preparations.

"It's a pity to end the test like this," rued the German, "but there is nothing we can do about it - that's just the way it is and it is the same for all the teams here. At least at our next test in Bahrain we can expect much better weather and many more laps, which is what we need to develop the new car."

"Today we had no chance to do any testing at all because the helicopter could not take off," added the Cologne-based outfit's senior general chassis manager Pascal Vasselon, "otherwise we would have done some work even in these difficult conditions. We were stuck in the pits and it was not a very productive day.

"Overall our first pre-season test has been positive in that we have appeared competitive in the wet and dry conditions, although obviously it is far too early to make any predictions. It is just a pity we had so little dry track time this week."

Heikki Kovalainen in the McLaren-Mercedes and Kazuki Nakajima for Williams were the other drivers to be inconvenienced by the weather, with the Finn consequently missing out on what would have been his first taste of the Woking-based concern's new MP4-24 - after reigning world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton undertook his initial laps on Wednesday - and the Japanese ace his first laps in the FW31.

"Because of the weather today, I only managed to do an installation lap," summarised Nakajima. "It was a real shame as I was really looking forward to testing the new car. I'll now just have to wait until the next test in Jerez in February."

"Testing today in Portugal was a complete wash-out," concluded the Grove-based, multiple world championship-winning squad's technical director Sam Michael, "with heavy rain all day. As such we had no further running with the FW31. In fact, the majority of the test was disrupted by rain; our only opportunity for consistent running was with Nico Rosberg on Wednesday.

"The time we did get on-track was productive, though, and allowed the team to work through our scheduled systems checks and aero and mechanical tests with the new car. We're comfortable with the progress we made, but more track time would have been preferable. We will now return to the factory and prepare the test car for the Jerez test in three weeks' time."

Rosberg and Williams test driver - and Bahrain GP2 Asia Series debut pole-sitter [see separate story - click here] - Nico H?lkenberg were nonetheless enthusiastic about the progress made during the week, despite the persistently inclement conditions.

"Tuesday was almost too wet to get any valuable testing done," confessed Rosberg, "but my second day was on a dry track and it was very positive. I did the most kilometres ever recorded on one day with a Formula 1 car, and that is really encouraging, especially as it was with the new car. We didn't have any problems that would have forced me to stop running, so that's a big compliment to the team.

"We worked through a good testing programme and have tried many fundamental set-up items as we try to learn more about the car. Performance-wise this week was also encouraging, but it's definitely too early to understand where we are relative to the other teams."

"Straight away the new car felt okay and I felt comfortable in it," agreed the young German's countryman and namesake H?lkenberg. "Of course, everyone wants to know how it compares to the 2008 car and what the impact of the rule changes are from a driver's point-of-view.

"In truth, I cannot say too much after just a few laps, because the track is 100 per cent new to me, I have never run in Portim?o and also it was pretty wet, so I have no baseline for comparison - if we were running at Jerez or Barcelona in the dry, I could be a little more specific. The important thing this week was to simply make sure we ran through all the checks of the basic systems on the car and to confirm everything is working as it should. That was the case this week and we can be happy."


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