Renault’s ailing Nelson A Piquet has shown what a dose of confidence could do for his performance after clocking the fastest time of the recent Barcelona testing stint and ending a dominant Ferrari run.
Rumours abound about Piquet’s future with the rookie driver popularly considered as due to be replaced at the Oxfordshire-based team if his results don’t pick up very quickly.
But the Brazilian managed a storming 1:20.076 after putting in 112 laps in the final day of a three-day test at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
Pedro de la Rosa, who had previously failed to come close to a rampant Luca Badoer for Ferrari, managed to coax 1:20.402 out of his McLaren, while Badoer was in an unaccustomed third place with 1:20.680.
Mark Webber, in fourth, was the first driver not to break one minute 21 seconds, while Toyota’s Timo Glock came in fifth.
Piquet said: “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.”
Ian Morgan, Red Bull’s chief test engineer, said: “Mark, who ended up fourth fastest, validated the results we had seen yesterday. Despite some persistent drizzle we got some good answers and worked through our entire programme.
“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.”
Red Bull says that its test team will be back in action soon as a Silverstone test follows on the Tuesday after the race in Magny-Cours.
Steve Clark, Honda’s head of race and test engineering, said of the team’s three-day programme: “A solid test from Rubens and Anthony this week and it was a great help to have a driver of the experience and calibre of Anthony available to step in and assist us with the programme.
“As we did not have any significant aero developments at this test, we concentrated on the set-up and balance of the RA108 to address some of the issues that we have identified at recent Grands Prix.
“We also introduced some suspension components which will open up the possibility to further improve the car at future races.
“From Barcelona, we now head to the centre of France for the next race in Magny Cours. The Circuit de Nevers is a high downforce track with a smooth surface which should suit our car much better than the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.”
Looking forward to the upcoming French Grand Prix, McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh said: “We go to France knowing we only have the capability to field one car on the optimum strategy, so our job will be a little different from normal.
“But we still expect to extract the very maximum performance levels from both cars. Both Lewis and Heikki are very confident about their chances and we will be working hard with the strategists and engineers in order to provide them both with the optimum strategy for the race.”
June 14 timesheet:
- Nelson A Piquet, Renault: 1:20.076 (112 laps)
- Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren: 1:20.402 (82 laps)
- Luca Badoer, Ferrari: 1:20.680 (63 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:21.037 (92 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:21.158 (86 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:21.295 (88 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 1:21.672 (83 laps)
- Nico Hulkenberg, Williams: 1:21.674 (60 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 1:21.880 (72 laps)