Robert Kubica topped the times on Thursday as the final four-day test session of the year moved into its penultimate day.

Kubica, who was getting his first taste of Bridgestone's 2009 slick tyres, completed 87 laps in total in his F1.07 - his best a 1 minute 19.157 seconds, which was around two tenths up on the next quickest runner.

Kubica's time though was still slightly slower than the best time of the week so far, set by his BMW Sauber team-mate, Nick Heidfeld on day 1.

Nick, who completed his third and final day at this test today, posted a 1m 19.042s lap on Tuesday, but had to settle for a lap around a second slower on day 3, which left him tenth overall on the unofficial leader-board.

"Our drivers continued the development work on the electronics and car set-up for 2008 today," read a statement from BMW following day 3. "Robert also had his first taste of the 2009 Bridgestone slick tyres. While there were a few small issues that caused minor interruptions to the planned test, all in all it was a positive day.

"Tomorrow's work will be on 2008 developments, while the team is hoping to finish its mileage and tyre allocation for the year.

"For Robert it will be day three, while Marko Asmer will have a full day, after the Estonia spent a half day in the car on Tuesday."

Lewis Hamilton meanwhile was second for McLaren, notching up 64 laps as the team continued to focus on a programme of aerodynamic and suspension work. Unlike Kubica though, he ran on grooved tyres, as opposed to the development rubber for 2009.

Felipe Massa was third for Ferrari, albeit just two thousandths of a second off Hamilton. The Brazilian was working mainly on new components and electronics for 2008.

Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber and Toyota's Timo Glock came in fourth and fifth respectively, both posting a 1m 19.6s lap.

Webber ran in the RB3 with the traction control and engine braking disabled. He had a 'profitable morning', concentrating on an aero programme as well as trying out the slick tyres. However, an unscheduled engine change cut short his afternoon programme.

David Coulthard was also on track for the Milton-Keynes based outfit, but finished the day right at the bottom of the times. DC will conclude Red Bull's programme on Friday.

Further down the order, Pedro de la Rosa was sixth in the second McLaren MP4-21, with Nelson Piquet seventh and multiple world champion, Michael Schumacher eighth. All three used the slick tyres on-and-off and there was little between them on the timesheets.

Piquet, who also worked on start procedures without traction control, and chassis set-ups without electronic driver aids was pleased with his day's running: "We had a good day, made progress with the car and I did a lot of laps, which is always very positive," he noted.

"I think this was an encouraging session for us, and the team collected some interesting data, which was the main objective."

Renault's chief test engineer, Christian Silk was also happy with their final day of testing: "We worked well. The team skipped its lunch break to get the most out of our final day of testing, so thank you to everybody! The team never lets its head go down this year, in spite of all the difficulties we faced, and once again today they gave the absolute maximum. We collected a lot of interesting data today, and our focus is already firmly on 2008."

Of the rest, Honda's Rubens Barrichello was ninth, with Heidfeld tenth and then Williams's Nico Rosberg. Rosberg notched up 65 laps, while Kazuki Nakajima, who was 15th overall, did just 39, the least of any one runner on track.

"Kazuki rejoined the test today and worked on set-up developments with Nico Rosberg in the interim FW29Bs," explained Williams test team manager, Dickie Stanford. "Although hindered by several red flags, it was another helpful day for the team. Both drivers will return tomorrow for the final test day of 2007."

In between the Williams' of Rosberg and Nakajima were the two Toro Rosso's of Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais and the Toyota of Jarno Trulli.

Trulli took over from Kamui Kobayashi and resumed the programme started by him on Wednesday, focusing on developing the new rear end and working with the 2008 standard ECU for the first time.

"It was a positive day and it was good to be back in the car," said the Italian. "We ran through all our planned programme running with the 2008 ECU and rear end of the car. This was the first time I have driven with the 2008 standard ECU but of course I have a lot of experience of driving without traction control. The main task was to put in a lot of mileage which have successfully done today. We concentrated on finding new things with the set-up and improving the general ECU settings. All in all it was quite a good day."

Toyota's senior chassis general manager, Pascal Vasselon was also content, even if Glock was delayed slightly in the other car due to a hydraulic issue: "Again we completed a lot of work today, although Timo did suffer a delay in the morning while a hydraulic issue was repaired," Vasselon confirmed.

"It was really interesting to run the slick tyres on Timo's car and we got a lot of information which will help us to adjust to the change in 2009. The difference between slicks and the current grooved tyres is quite big and the car behaves differently. Obviously there is more grip without the grooves and lap times are faster, which we expected, but it was interesting to note that the car balance and handling stays good with the slick tyres when we thought there could be difficulties.

"Jarno put in a hard day's work and we have made more progress with the 2008 ECU so now we look forward to concluding the year's testing tomorrow."

After that it was left to the Super Aguri's and Force India cars to bring up the rear, the former 16th and 18th, with Luca Filippi and Takuma Sato, while Vitantonio Liuzzi and Ralf Schumacher tried out for the former Spyker/Midland/Jordan team.

"Overall it was a difficult day with several stoppages, however this morning was quite productive," reflected Force India's technical director, James Key. "Tonio got a fair few laps in and gave some good feedback, which seemed to take the car in the right direction and his shorter runs were consistent.

"For Ralf it was more difficult as we had some issues with the car initially, which unfortunately slowed things down, especially as it was his first time with the team and his first without control systems. Over the longer runs it came together pretty well for him though and he was very consistent. Once again though it has been a very useful day of feedback for the team from experienced drivers."

Testing now concludes on Friday, although McLaren and Renault won't be in action having opted to run for just three-days.

 

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