The scarlet car of Kimi Raikkonen knocked the McLaren team from the top of the timesheet as the Finn put in a blistering time of 1:28.833 around the Monaco-layout of the Paul Ricard track. Raikkonen covered 50 laps of the 5.255 km track, working mainly on the set-up of the car, and the effects of the different tyre types.
Surprisingly, it was the Toro Rosso of Scott Speed who came in second, just two-tenths of a second down on the Ferrari. The STR2 was running in a low downforce configuration as Speed tested the Bridgestone super-soft tyres and balance of the car.
Kovalainen was third in his Renault as he focused on his aerodynamic package. Kubica’s BMW Sauber wasn’t far behind as he tried out a couple of starts, and tested a variety of different downforce options.
The Red Bull of Mark Webber was fifth quickest on the day as he worked through some testing of the suspension. Test driver Franck Montagny did well to come in sixth as he took over from race driver Ralf Schumacher. Montagny was tasked with working on the car set-up for Montreal whilst also working on some brake testing. Unfortunately, he clipped a kerb early, forcing him to stop on-track and cutting short his test session.
Alex Wurz finished seventh. McLaren had a fairly poor day with Pedro de la Rosa finishing eighth, a suprisingly low placing given the absolute dominance of the MP4-22 over the previous two days.
Rubens Barrichello took ninth for Honda before handing the car over to his team-mate Christian Klien after lunch. Unfortunately, the car had some gremlins and an engine failure on his 25th lap saw him ending his day prematurely.
James Rossiter finished 11th in his Super Aguri, testing out the new aerodynamic package. The two Spykers of Chrisijan Albers and Markus Winkelhock rounded up 12th and 13th place. Albers had a torrid day, completing just16 laps before a mechanical problem forced him to end his day early.
Unofficial Thursday times from Paul Ricard:
1. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:28.833
2. Scott Speed, Toro Rosso, 1:29.039
3. Heikki Kovalainen, Renault, 1:29.070
4. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:29.157
5. Mark Webber, Red Bull, 1:29.179
6. Franck Montagny, Toyota, 1:29.205
7. Alex Wurz, Williams, 1:29.359
8. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 1:29.528
9. Rubens Barrichello, Honda, 1:30.108
10. Christian Klien, Honda, 1:30.235
11. James Rossiter, Super Aguri, 1:30.286
12. Christijan Albers, Spyker, 1:32.245
13. Markus Winkelhock, Spyker, 1:32.756