Nick Heidfeld set the pace for BMW Sauber at Jerez on Tuesday as the final four-day test session of the year got underway.

Heidfeld, who will be in action every day this week except on Friday, completed 78 laps in total - his best a 1 minute 19.042 seconds, which around a tenth up on Jenson Button, who was 'best of the rest' for Honda.

Both Heidfeld and Button though were using Bridgestone's new development specification tyres, ahead of the possible re-introduction of slicks in 2009.

Heidfeld was joined in the sister F1.07 by 2007 British F3 champion, Marko Asmer and GP2 race winner, Javier Villa. Villa ran in the morning and did 53 laps in total, while Asmer took over the car this afternoon and also did around 50 laps. Robert Kubica will take over that chassis on Tuesday, when he joins Heidfeld to continue work on mechanical and aero developments.

Button meanwhile was second, notching up 70 laps in total, with ex-Ferrari man, Ross Brawn watching from the sidelines after starting work as Honda team principal last week.

Pedro de la Rosa completed the top three for McLaren, albeit more than five tenths off the pace, although admittedly on grooved rubber.

McLaren ran two cars on Tuesday, one set-up to focus on aerodynamic development and the other on the proving of chassis components. de la Rosa and fellow McLaren tester, Gary Paffett, who ended the day in P7 on the timesheets, swapped between the two cars during the day.

Paffett will be replaced by Lewis Hamilton on Wednesday and Thursday, before getting back behind the wheel on Friday, when the team plan to run with the slick Bridgestone tyres.

Further down the order, 2007 champion, Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, on his first outing with the Scuderia since the season ending Brazilian Grand Prix. The Finn was working on 'the development of new components, with special emphasise on electronics'.

Marc Gene was out in the sister car and he managed 67 laps in total, 11 less than Kimi. Gene will hand over his F2007 to Felipe Massa on Wednesday.

Next up was Nelson Piquet, who will run on all three-days for Renault - the regie have opted not to run on Friday. The Brazilian concentrated on acclimatising to the R27 fitted with the 2008-spec standard ECU and having already driven the car in this configuration earlier in the year, adapted pretty quickly.

"It was good to get back to driving today, particularly as I will be in the car for all three days this week," he stated. "I was comfortable in the car, and it felt good to be running without driver aids. We found a good set-up for the car today, and that will help us make more progress tomorrow."

"Our aim for the day was to get Nelson comfortable with the car, and it went well," added Renault's chief test engineer, Christian Silk. "He did a good job on the set-up programme in order to find a baseline set-up for the rest of the week. We could have run more laps, but it was still an encouraging day, and we will be focusing on doing plenty of miles to successfully complete our programme over the next two days."

Of the rest, Sebastien Bourdais was sixth for Toro Rosso, just two-three tenths off Piquet. He managed 101 laps in total, the second highest of the day, while working on a front flap comparison and also carrying out an evaluation of front suspension solutions.

Bourdais' team-mate, Sebastian Vettel didn't have such a good day though and while he was only four tenths slower and ended proceedings in eleventh, he managed just 46 laps due to a technical problem.

Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber and Mike Conway were the other two runners to make it into the top ten, eighth and tenth fastest respectively, with Gene sandwiched in between in ninth. This was Mark's first run in the RB3 since Interlagos and he will be joined on Wednesday by David Coulthard, when the team runs two cars.

After that James Rossiter was 12th, two tenths behind Vettel, with Giancarlo Fisichella, Nico Hulkenberg and Kazuki Nakajima 13th, 14th and 15th respectively.

Hulkenberg, who was getting his first outing in an F1 car and who is chasing a test role with Williams, was fractionally up Nakajima.

"We opened our four day test at Jerez today with Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Huelkenberg," stated Williams test team manager, Dickie Stanford. "Kazuki was working through the final part of our 2007 test programme and Nico joined us for his first run in a Formula One car. Nico provided solid feedback for his debut outing and will continue in the car tomorrow alongside Nico Rosberg. After tomorrow, Kazuki and Nico Rosberg will be on testing duties for the remaining two days."

Toyota's Timo Glock and Kamui Kobayashi ended the day near the bottom of the times, sandwiching Franck Montagny, who was running for Force India F1. Both Timo and Kamui were getting their first taste of the TF107 and neither had any problems.

"It has been a very interesting experience to have two new drivers in the car today," reflected Toyota's senior chassis general manager, Pascal Vasselon. "We are very pleased to have Timo in the car and he has made a strong first impression.

"He is very focused and worked hard today to understand the car and make some improvements in set-up. As expected, he did a good job and provided solid feedback, which is very useful for us. He drove without driver aids today but that was no problem for him because of his experience in GP2 driving without traction is natural to him.

"The team already know Kamui from his tests with us last winter but he is a young driver with not so much Formula 1 experience so he had to acclimatise and get used to a Formula 1 car again.

"He did a good job, didn't make any mistakes and gave us some data on set-up with the new electronics system and new rear end. He also completed an impressive number of laps which shows how fit he is."

Testing now continues on Wednesday.

 

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