Beleaguered Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr received a welcome morale boost after topping the times on the final day of Formula One group testing at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The Renault F1 driver, who continues to face speculation about his job security, overcame early overcast conditions to shine along with the sun during the afternoon session in Barcelona.

"Once again, we completed the work that we had planned without any problems, and we learnt a lot of things," Nelsinho commented, "We continued with the programme we started yesterday by putting some new things on the car that the team hope to run in the coming races. I also had the chance to do some qualifying simulations in the afternoon, which went well. It's nice to be top of the times but, as this is only testing, we have to treat these times with caution."

Piquet remained in the R28 for a second day of running as he completed the team's final preparations for its 'home' event, the French Grand Prix, at Magny-Cours next weekend. With good reliability, Renault was able to continue with its aero evaluations and suspension set-up work, and also took the opportunity to complete some qualifying simulation in the afternoon.

"It was a trouble-free day and, like yesterday, we were able to do lots of running, with Nelson covering over 100 laps," chief test engineer Christian Silk confirmed, "That has given us lots more data, which we will analyse in the coming days so that we can approach the French Grand Prix in the best shape possible. Overall, it has been a positive three days."

Pedro de la Rosa was second quickest on the day, as McLaren wrapped up its Barcelona preparations by signing off new technical and aerodynamic components. As with Renault, there were no major issues.

Ferrari was third fastest, keeping tabs on its great rival with Luca Badoer at the wheel, but Canadian GP winner BMW Sauber could only manage sixth best, with Nick Heidfeld lining up behind both Mark Webber and a more confident Timo Glock.

Badoer closed a busy programme for the Scuderia, which focused on the development of new aerodynamic solutions, as well as experimenting with different set-ups on the F2008.

"It was a generally positive test," the team veteran test driver reported, "We were able to work continuously and without any major technical problems. We saw interesting results from some new components, which might prove useful in the forthcoming races. On top of that, we also got through everything we had planned in terms of engine reliability work."

Heidfeld was testing solutions designed to make the F1.08 more suitable to his personal driving style after being out-gunned by Montreal winner Robert Kubica in recent races, but also evaluated different set-up options. The team reported that it had made 'considerable progress', and revealed that that had allowed it to get Heidfeld to reconfirm Kubica's earlier testing results regarding the general set-up.

Webber, meanwhile, took over in the cockpit of the lone RB4 for the last day of testing, working through a programme that continued the aero and mechanical evaluations initiated by official test driver Sebastien Buemi and David Coulthard.

"Mark validated the results we had seen yesterday and, despite some persistent drizzle [this morning], we got some good answers and worked through our entire programme," chief test engineer Ian Morgan reported, "We are pleased with the progress made with the mechanical and aero items and we also did over our target in terms of mileage for the three days, so we are looking forward to the French Grand Prix."

Toyota concluded its three-day test with Glock continuing his schedule, which began on Friday, testing both aerodynamic and mechanical developments on the TF108. The German reported that he was satisfied with an uninterrupted day's running, despite rain threatening much but delivering little.

"Following on from our strong result in Montreal, it has been a good two days of testing," Glock confirmed, "We have been able to evaluate some braking and aerodynamic work, as well as some mechanical changes, in preparation for Magny-Cours. The changes we made to the car were positive and I was able to gather more data today in addition to what we learned yesterday."

It was not all good news for Toyota, however, as, with the end in sight, Glock suffered an engine issue on the engine, but test team manager Gerd Pfeiffer admitted that the overall feeling had been positive.

"It has been a varied test, starting off with an opportunity for Kamui [Kobayashi] to gain some more mileage in the TF108 and contribute to our development programme on Thursday," he said, "He learned from the experience, and then Timo took over for the remaining two days. We collected a lot of data relevant to both aerodynamic and mechanical development on the car and I would like to thank the team for all the hard work this week. We made good progress and will be aiming to add to the points scored by both cars in the last race."

Rubens Barrichello took the seventh spot for Honda, completing his second day behind the wheel of the RA108 after taking over from surprise returnee Anthony Davidson. The Brazilian' schedule for the morning session saw him continue the car's chassis set-up programme, which he maintained into the afternoon, along with a suspension evaluation.

"We had a good two days in Barcelona this week and were able to cover a lot of mileage," Barrichello noted, "Without any major new test items, we focused on set-up
work and I'm happy with the progress that we made. We were able to improve the car mechanically, which gives me a good feeling going into the French Grand Prix next weekend."

Nico Hulkenberg took the opportunity to get some rare running with the Williams team, edging fellow German Sebastian Vettel into the final spot on the timesheets. Vettel replaced regular team-mate Sebastien Bourdais in the cockpit of the STR3, but followed the same programme as the Frenchman on the last day of what was a two-day test.

The main item on the agenda was a completely new aero package and, like yesterday, the team worked through a series of evaluations designed to increase its understanding of how it works and the effect it has on the car's handling.

"We tried various set-ups with the French race in mind and continued with evaluation of new suspension components," chief engineer Laurent Mekies revealed, "We feel we have made a step forward, but we won't really know where we are until we get to Magny-Cours. Despite a couple of problems over the past two days, we nevertheless managed to successfully complete a long run programme too."

Force India was not present at the test, but will renew its battle with the nine teams that were at Magny-Cours from Friday. All ten teams are expected run at the next test, scheduled for Silverstone in the run-up to the British GP, although Ferrari will be back on track this coming Tuesday [17 June] at Fiorano, where Badoer will carry out the shakedown of the cars that Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa will use in the French Grand Prix.

 

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