Jacques Villeneuve put Team Sauber-Petronas at the top of the times for the second consecutive day today [Thursday], during the third day of testing at Jerez. However, like Wednesday, conditions were again far from ideal, with limited dry running.

In mixed conditions, Villeneuve completed 74 laps, his best a 1 minute 22.071 seconds. The Canadian spent the day continuing to get to know his new team, while also conducting Michelin tyre tests.

"Today the weather was just like yesterday and the forecast for tomorrow is also not very promising, which makes testing a bit difficult," explained Sauber race engineer, Giampaolo Dall'Ara. "Therefore Jacques mostly used the day to further acclimatise to the car and the team.

"However, as soon as the track started to dry up in the afternoon we were able to do our best laps. We couldn't get a lot of references concerning aerodynamic and mechanical set-up tests, but we adapted our programme to the conditions and focused on further Michelin tyre work.

"Overall, despite of the bad weather and track conditions we still did quite a lot and the performance was pretty good."

Nick Heidfeld meanwhile was next up, on his second outing with the Williams-BMW FW26C, the German just four tenths slower than Villeneuve, and nearly a second up on Antonio Pizzonia, who was sixth, in the sister car.

"I'm really happy with the two days I've had in the car," said the German. "It's a very nice car to drive, and I was getting more familiar with it lap by lap. I think I would have benefited from some more time, and better weather to get a proper feel of how the car handles in the dry. Overall though, it's been a very productive and satisfying test."

Williams, who completed there three-day programme today, were again focusing on component development work in the interim FW26.

"After a rather troublesome test in Barcelona last week, we've made good progress this week in Jerez," stated Williams test team manager, Tim Newton. "Mark, Antonio and Nick all did a good job with the interim cars and, despite some rather inclement weather, all three recorded impressive mileage.

"On his fist outing with the team, Nick settled in well and gave us some productive feedback. Credit must be given to everyone, both at the factory and at the track, who have worked hard over the past week to rectify the teething problems encountered in Barcelona. As a result, we've had a relatively trouble-free, and therefore productive, test."

Red Bull Racing duo Vitantonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien were third and fourth fastest respectively, while 2003 British F3 champion, Alan van der Merwe completed the top five, on his second outing with BAR, as part of their 'Young Driver Programme'. He was half a second up on BAR race driver, Takuma Sato, who was seventh, while Enrique Bernoldi, BAR's fourth driver, was 17th on the leaderboard. James Rossiter also got on track today, completing 32 laps.

Team McLaren-Mercedes joined proceedings, Alexander Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa, eighth and 13th for the Woking based squad, while McLaren were also on track at Silverstone, where Jamie Green and Alex Lloyd - the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award winners - got a total of 21 laps each in the McLaren MP4-19.

McLaren weren't the only team to join the act at Jerez, with Renault's Franck Montagny and Giancarlo Fisichella on track, completing 83 laps between them.

Renault chief test engineer Christian Silk commented: "Although the rain meant we completed a more restricted programme than we would have done on a dry track, it nevertheless provided the opportunity to complete a large amount of useful software development.

"Also, Giancarlo had never driven on Michelin wet tyres before, so the conditions helped him in another aspect of his acclimatisation to our package."

Of the rest, Ralf Schumacher was just outside the top ten, in the sole Toyota, with Ferrari's Luca Badoer 12th, and Marc Gene 14th in the other F2004, sandwiching the McLaren of de la Rosa. The Ferrari testers again focused on new components and Bridgestone tyre testing, while Andrea Bertolini was on track at Fiorano back at the Scuderia's HQ. He completed 91 laps, focusing on electronics.

Robert Doornbos was the only other runner on track at Jerez, notching up 49 laps for Jordan.

Testing continues tomorrow [Friday].

Leading times (2 December) - Jerez:

1. Jacques Villeneuve Sauber-Petronas 1m 22.071s 74 laps M
2. Nick Heidfeld Williams-BMW 1m 22.462s 95 laps M
3. Vitantonio Liuzzi Red Bull-Cosworth 1m 22.629s 68 laps M
4. Christian Klien Red Bull-Cosworth 1m 22.869s 34 laps M
5. Alan van der Merwe BAR-Honda 1m 22.884s 38 laps M
6. Antonio Pizzonia Williams-BMW 1m 23.384s 48 laps M
7. Takuma Sato BAR-Honda 1m 23.384s 45 laps M
8. Alex Wurz McLaren-Mercedes 1m 24.708s 44 laps M
9. Franck Montagny Renault-Renault 1m 24.770s 40 laps M
10. Giancarlo Fisichella Renault-Renault 1m 24.939s 43 laps M
11. Ralf Schumacher Toyota-Toyota 1m 26.210s 53 laps M
12. Luca Badoer Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 27.572s 39 laps B
13. Pedro de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes 1m 28.325s 24 laps
14. Marc Gene Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 28.939s 38 laps B
15. Robert Doornbos Jordan-Cosworth 1m 32.224s 49 laps M
16. James Rossiter BAR-Honda 1m 33.448s 32 laps M
17. Enrique Bernoldi BAR-Honda 1m 33.474s 14 laps M

B denotes Bridgestone tyres
M denotes Michelin tyres.

Track conditions: Mixed - wet and dry on and off.

All times unofficial.

 

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