It was the under-fire Ralf Schumacher who topped the timesheets on the first day of testing at Silverstone, with the German outpacing 2007 pace-setters McLaren as the rumours he is on the verge of losing his seat at Toyota gather pace.

The day was punctuated by red flags as Mark Webber, Luca Badoer, Nick Heidfeld and Vitantonio Liuzzi all suffered mechanical woes that forced them to stop on-track and Kazuki Nakajima spun at Brooklands, damaging his Williams' front wing. Schumacher ended proceedings just over a tenth of a second clear of McLaren test-driver Pedro de la Rosa after working on tyre comparisons. Team-mate Jarno Trulli is set to take over at the wheel from Wednesday.

"In general it was a successful day," Schumacher said afterwards, "and we made it through everything we had planned. We were concentrating on set-up work, primarily targeted at the British Grand Prix. We also looked at some different aero settings and did some qualifying runs.

"The conditions were very good, particularly in the morning, although the wind picked up in the afternoon. We had one stoppage after lunch while we changed some suspension settings but overall things went well."

De la Rosa covered almost 100 laps of the Northamptonshire circuit as he focused on engineering and set-up work on the MP4-22 in preparation for the British Grand Prix in just under three weeks' time. Both Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton are expected to be in action for the Woking outfit over the remainder of the three-day test.

Red Bull Racing star Webber was third-fastest on the back of his maiden points of the campaign in the US Grand Prix last weekend, with Heikki Kovalainen - who has seen his debut season come alive in the two transatlantic races - just behind after concentrating on set-up and aerodynamic work and tyre comparisons. The Finn will be joined by Renault test-driver Nelson Piquet Jnr on Wednesday.

"It was an interesting day for us," Kovalainen commented afterwards. "We are determined to continue our progress from recent weeks, and this is a very important test session for us. I collected some good data today, which we will analyse overnight and build upon tomorrow. It was also good to find my feet on this circuit, which I know well, before my first British Grand Prix in three weeks' time."

"The circuit was very slippery and low-grip this morning," added the R?gie's chief test engineer Christian Silk. "That's normal on the first day of testing, but there are lots of teams running and the grip level will climb quickly as they all put rubber down. That will help us to make good progress in the coming days. We didn't quite complete our planned programme, but the work we did was very positive and looks encouraging for the rest of the week."

Ferrari tester Badoer was next up in fifth, just over a second shy of the ultimate pace as the Scuderia seeks to regain some of the ground it has lost on arch-rivals McLaren. Heidfeld lapped sixth-quickest in his BMW-Sauber at the end of 42 laps spent testing tyres and some new aerodynamic and mechanical components that yielded promising results. The German finished the test an hour earlier than originally planned due to a slight back pain, with test-driver and GP2 ace Timo Glock due to take over duties on Wednesday and Thursday.

Scuderia Toro Rosso's Liuzzi was seventh at the end of the day, having not got behind the wheel until after lunchtime due to flight delays returning from Indianapolis. The Italian worked on the team's quick-shift gearbox system and tyre evaluation, conducting long runs on race fuel loads.

Williams test-driver Nakajima - who completed considerably the most laps of anyone present despite his minor lapse - and Adrian Valles and Giedo van der Garde for Spyker rounded out the ten drivers running.

Leading performances (19 June) - Silverstone:

1. Ralf Schumacher Toyota-Toyota 1min 22.540secs 71 laps
2. Pedro de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes 1m 22.915s 98 laps
3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m 23.329s 42 laps
4. Heikki Kovalainen Renault-Renault 1m 23.510s 63 laps
5. Luca Badoer Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 23.768s 57 laps
6. Nick Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 1m 23.841s 42 laps
7. Vitantonio Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 24.125s 50 laps
8. Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1m 24.665s 124 laps
9. Adrian Valles Spyker-Ferrari 1m 25.394 36 laps
10. Giedo van der Garde Spyker-Ferrari 1m 25.931s 27 laps

All times unofficial - courtesy of McLaren-Mercedes

Track/weather conditions: Warm and sunny all day. Track temperature, 34.4? C / Ambient temperature, 22.3? C

 

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