Although much was made of the opportunity to compare Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton on track at the same time, in reality the diversity of testing programmes being run meant that no worthwhile comparison was possible.
Teams ran a mixture of grooved and slick tyres, the latter being evaluated ahead of a possible return in 2009. Many also used the last day of the test to run reduced 2009-specification downforce levels.
New champion Kimi Raikkonen made his returning to testing and Michael Schumacher did another two days – although the pair were conspicuously kept apart, running on different days.
Raikkonen was fourth, Marc Gene ninth on Tuesday, before Felipe Massa took Gene’s place the following day. On Thursday Schumacher appeared in Raikkonen’s place to do some running on slick tyres. The following day he was fourth fastest on slick despite using reduced 2009-specification downforce levels.
Nick Heidfeld was quickest of all on the first day using slick tyres. The team evaluated Marko Asmer and Javier Villa in the other car, the pair lapping in 1’21.962 and 1’23.583 respectively, Villa slowest of all. Kubica took over the second car on Wednesday while Heidfeld tried 2009-specification developments, suffered a car failure and ended the day slowest.
Kubica put BMW back on top on the third day of testing, again on slick tyres. He was partnered by Asmer on the final day when the Pole was second fastest.
Nelson Piquet Jnr did all the running for Renault who were present for only the first three days of the test. Piquet’s extended test, the absence of Heikki Kovalainen, and Giancarlo Fisichella’s test for Force India indicates what changes might take place in the team’s driver line-up next year.
Piquet Jnr was fifth on Tuesday then sixth the following day after an off-track excursion early in the day. He also tried slicks, did some work simulating race starts, and on Thursday he was seventh.
Williams tested Nico Hülkenberg with a view to making the German its future test driver. He ran on Tuesday (when he was faster than Kazuki Nakajima) and Wednesday (when Nico Rosberg was quicker). Rosberg and Nakajima then ran the cars for the final two days.
There were some car trouble for the team however, Rosberg stopping on Wednesday and Friday, the latter coming as he tested slick tyres and was third quickest. Nakajima also caused a session stoppage when his car suffered an oil leak on Thursday.
Red Bull ran Mark Webber Tuesday to Thursday and David Coulthard Wednesday to Friday. The latter was second fastest using slicks on Wednesday, and Webber was fourth on Thursday.
Freed from his BMW contract, Timo Glock was able to test for Toyota and for the first two days was partnered by Kamui Kobayashi, the Japanese doing a huge 229 laps.
On Thursday Jarno Trulli replaced Kobayashi for the last two days of the test, the Italian getting his first taste of driving the car without driver aids. On Thursday he ran slick tyres and 2009 downforce specification. He said:
We tried to achieve many things today so it was quite busy for me. I used the new slick tyres and they gave a lot more grip and were pretty consistent. We also tried the tyres with 2009 levels of downforce which was quite different and a bit tricky. It was not easy to understand everything because we tried so many different things during the day… We tried to do as many laps as possible, which was our main target in order to put mileage on the new rear end and 2008 ECU.
Toro Rosso’s 2008 line-up of Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais were in the cars all week. Vettel ended the final test session of the year quickest of all with the fastest time of the week, using slick tyres and next year’s downforce levels. He had suffered car problems on Thursday.
Honda continued to court controversy by using its Super Aguri B-team to evaluate potential new drivers and dodge the 35,000km testing restriction. There was a single Honda car for the first three days of the test, used by Jenson Button on Tuesday (when he was second on slicks) and Rubens Barrichello for the last two days.
Honda were quite transparent about the arrangement, issuing a press release referring to Anthony Davidson as “a member of the wider Honda family” as he continued the team’s work on slick tyres on Friday in a Super Aguri.
Meanwhile the ‘other Hondas’ ran two cars on each day of the test. Mike Conway and James Rossiter kicked things off, then Andreas Zuber and Anthony Davidson took over on Wednesday. Luca Fillipi and Takuma Sato did the third day, and 2007 race drivers Davidson and Sato had the final outing.
Rossiter tried slicks and pronounced them to be tricky, while on the final day the team tried out the 2009 style aerodynamic package to assess downforce levels.
The three Young Driver Programme members (Conway, Filippi and Zuber) all did acclimatisation work in the morning followed by a series of longer runs.
Force India tested F1′s 2007 refugees on the first three days: Franck Montagny (Tuesday), Giancarlo Fisichella (Tuesday and Wednesday), Christian Klien (Wednesday), Ralf Schumacher (Thursday) and Vitantonio Liuzzi (Thursday). Test drivers Giedo van der Garde and Roldan Rodriguez did the work on the final day.
Vijay Mallya said that having a string of top drivers in the car was good for his employees’ morale. But Ralf Schumacher’s later said he would not be driving for the team after suffering mechanical problems, two spins, and ending the day slowest.
Fisichella was more positive despite having hydraulic and differential problems. He tried the slick tyres, as did Klien. Rodriguez also had an engine blow on the final day.
McLaren were present for the first three days of the test with reserve drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett in the car on the first day.
Hamilton took over from Paffett on Wednesday and running without driver aids went quickest of all, despite a brief moment off the track. He was second on Thursday on grooved tyres behind Heidfeld’s slick-shod BMW. De la Rosa was third on Tuesday, the quickest driver on grooved tyres, then ran slick tyres and the 2009 downforce specification on Thursday.
Photos: GEPA / Mattias Kniepeiss | HondaRacingF1.com | Peter J Fox / Crash Media Group
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