Panasonic Toyota Racing conducted the second of its three-day test programme at Jerez today, with Ralf Schumacher continuing his set-up and tyre work in the morning before handing over to Jarno Trulli. The Italian had his first outing of 2006 after a holiday break enjoying the first Christmas with baby son Enzo.
Trulli returned to work amid rumours connecting a number of high profile drivers with the Toyota team. In the face of such speculation the team confirms its commitment to both Ralf and Jarno and to the continuity that is a key part of its development. Negotiations with our drivers will be dealt with in a correct and professional manner at a later date and everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing is firmly focused on the 2006 programme.
Third driver Ricardo Zonta continued Bridgestone's tyre programme by sampling a number of the Japanese company's latest casings and compounds. The Brazilian had a productive day after a couple of morning interruptions due to
Ralf Schumacher found the rear end of his TF106 a bit too nervous under braking on the final run of his test, finishing up in the Turn 1 gravel, but still went home happy with progress.
Ralf Schumacher - Chassis TF106/02
Best lap time: 1m19.189s
Total laps: 34
Total distance: 150.552kms
Ralf Schumacher "In general it was a successful test but we still have a big programme to work through on the tyre side. The development work we do with Bridgestone is very interesting and has really only just started but I am very happy. There was a slight imbalance on the car but that was a set-up rather than a tyre issue. I felt the rear end become a little bit nervous and I spun going into Turn 1, but no harm was done."
*Gear Oh gear
Jarno Trulli had time to blow away the Christmas cobwebs and complete his first laps of 2006 after the crew changed TF106/2 to the Italian's settings and he began a season that he hopes will take the team one step further than the podiums of '05...
Jarno Trulli - Chassis TF106/02
Best lap time: 1m19.975s
Total laps: 18
Total distance: 79.704kms
Jarno Trulli "Coming back today I am full of optimism for the new season and it would be nice to think that we can have an even better year than 2005 and hopefully win a Grand Prix. I did only a couple of runs today and so it is not possible to say much, but it was good to be back behind the wheel again. It felt as if we have made some improvements to the gearbox but I will have a better idea tomorrow."
*First among equals
Ricardo Zonta finished the day in a positive frame of mind, setting strong times and reporting positive tyre testing results.
Ricardo Zonta - Chassis TF106/01
Best lap time: 1m18.541s
Total laps: 71
Total distance: 314.388kms
Ricardo Zonta "Today was good. We finished the programme and made some tyre discoveries that were very positive. Everyone has to forget about V10s now but we are starting to see the different way that the V8-engined cars use the tyres. Of course we are on different Bridgestone rubber now, but it seems like you use the tyres more from entry to mid corner but not as much on the exit. I think we are looking good. If we take away the people with V10 cars or with earlier, more advantageous aerodynamic configurations, we are always in front. Yesterday we were quickest and it was the same again today. That is quite difficult for people to appreciate just by looking at lap times, but if you compare our car to others running in a comparable specification, we are very quick."
A planned driver change and a couple of minor electronic issues failed to get in the way of strong engineering progress.
Pascal Vasselon, Head of Research and Development "Not an easy day for us but, again, a positive one. Ralf had a small spin that was nothing serious but put quite a lot of gravel in the car. It therefore took a bit longer than we thought to finally give Jarno the opportunity to do his first runs of the year and continue the interesting set-up work that Ralf had begun. We did some extensive tyre testing with Ricardo, trying both casings and compounds, and made some interesting findings."