McLaren-Mercedes continued to set the pace today [Thursday] at Valencia, with David Coulthard posting the quickest time of the week so far, a 1m 10.977s.

His team-mate, Alexander Wurz, who was fastest yesterday on a 1m 11.104s, was third, while the Sauber of Heinz-Harald Frentzen was second, the meat in the McLaren sandwich.

Frentzen completed 43 laps despite a transmission problem and was pleased with the days work.

"I felt the car was handling well," said the German, "and it responded as expected to the work we have done today with the team and the second quickest time is the best proof."

Frentzen's team-mate Nick Heidfeld was fifth, with the two Ferraris' of Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher fourth and sixth respectively, the Brazilian around two tenths up on the Ferrari No. 1.

Test driver Luca Badoer was also in action, setting the ninth quickest time, as the Scuderia used three F2002's to notch up nearly 200 laps. The day's technical agenda for the Maranello squad centred on the continuation of an electronics and tyre development programme, which has been running all week.

Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella was seventh in the new EJ13, while Olivier Panis was eighth. His Toyota team-mate, Cristiano da Matta, was 13th, around half a second slower.

"My car felt better again today and we are going in a positive direction," said the Brazilian. "I exchanged a bit of information with Olivier this morning and I adopted some of his settings. During the day, we continued to thoroughly test several new parts, which brought a real improvement to the overall balance. I have enjoyed my first trip to Valencia. The track is short, but has some nice slow corners, which are particularly good for testing."

B.A.R-Honda's Jacques Villeneuve rounded off the top ten, while Antonio Pizzonia was eleventh for Jaguar and Jenson Button was twelfth in the second B.A.R.

Jos Verstappen was 13th and slowest on his debut in a Minardi. Like yesterday though the Minardi team was severely hampered by the fact that they had to make do with Avon F3000 tyres and hence Jos could only managed a 1m 15.182s.

Commenting on his return the Dutchman said: "It takes a little time to return to a Formula One car after 15 months away and to get back in the rhythm again, but after about 20 laps, I was feeling really comfortable and enjoying myself. That was the reason for today's test - to get used to F1 again - and that's what we did.

"I'm very pleased with the lap times, especially considering the car is two years old and we were running on Avon F3000-specification tyres. I have also confirmed that my fitness level is fine, so all in all, I am very pleased with the whole day. Now Justin and I will just wait impatiently to get in the new car."

Testing continues tomorrow [Friday].

Leading times (30 January) - Valencia:

1. David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1m 10.977s 48 laps**
2. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber-Petronas# 1m 11.109s 43 laps*
3. Alexander Wurz McLaren-Mercedes 1m 11.123s 66 laps**
4. Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 1m 11.308s 96 laps*
5. Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Petronas# 1m 11.418s 50 laps*
6. Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1m 11.521s 62 laps*
7. Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan-Cosworth# 1m 11.709s 62 laps*
8. Olivier Panis Toyota# 1m 11.931s 63 laps**
9. Luca Badoer Ferrari 1m 12.105s 40 laps*
10. Jacques Villeneuve B.A.R-Honda# 1m 12.119s 71 laps*
11. Antonio Pizzonia Jaguar-Cosworth# 1m 12.329s 62 laps**
12. Jenson Button B.A.R-Honda# 1m 12.494s 62 laps*
13. Cristiano da Matta Toyota# 1m 12.414s 77 laps**
14. Jos Verstappen Minardi-European 1m 15.182s 47 laps***

* denotes Bridgestone tyres.
** denotes Michelin tyres.
*** denotes Avon [F3000] tyres.
# denotes 2003 car


Weather / Track Conditions: Sunny and very windy.

 

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