Hamilton ends Jerez test on top

lrg-import- v9f9440Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton remained the quickest driver in 2009 machinery on the final day of testing at Jerez in Spain, while Fernando Alonso finally managed to unlock some potential from his Renault R29.

With Toro Rosso running last year’s car Sebastien Bourdais topped the timesheets comfortably courtesy of 2008 downforce levels. All eyes were on the battle behind him between McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Renault’s Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton lapped over a second quicker than he had gone on the previous day with a 1m 19.632 but this was partly due to McLaren electing to run a 2008-style rear wing.

Fernando Alonso, who has been languishing at the bottom of the timesheets for most of the test, lapped within three tenths of Hamilton demonstrating that Renault have begun to unlock some performance from their new R29.

The Spaniard was pleased to see the team making progress: “After doing so many laps with the car yesterday, we concentrated more on set-up work today to get a better understanding of the car and make it easier to drive,” he said.

“Overall, we have to be very happy as we managed to do lots of laps and the car responded well to the set-up changes we made, so I think we’ve found some good solutions.

“Every day the driveability of the car is improving and although we still have a lot of work to do before the start of the season, we are definitely moving in the right direction.”

Williams driver Nico Rosberg was fourth fastest ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber.

The Aussie’s track time was limited in the morning due to an elusive mechanical problem but, once running resumed around lunchtime, Webber embarked on a long-run tyre comparison, while also evaluating set-up and suspension changes.

“Apart from a few minor niggles, which are to be expected with a brand new car, this first test has produced pleasing results,” commented Head of Race Engineering, Ian Morgan. “RB5 proved to be generally reliable and its performance seems encouraging straight out of the box.”

The next official test gets underway in Jerez on 1 March 2009.

Today’s times:

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:17.472 117
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:19.632 94
3. Alonso Renault (B) 1:19.846 109
4. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:21.217 70
5. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:20.738 92
6. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) No time 34