With just six weeks remaining before the F1 paddock assembles for the first race of the 2006 season in Bahrain, the winter test programme stepped up a notch in Barcelona with most of Panasonic Toyota Racing's chief rivals now running their new '06 machinery in Spain.
For the team, there is continuity of drivers and the switch to Bridgestone tyres is the biggest change to the technical package. Optimising the TF106 around the latest products from the Japanese manufacturer is a key focus of the team's winter test schedule and a major part of the three-day test this week.
Jarno Trulli rejoined the programme fresh from a few days cross-country ski training – complete with a special baby sled for son Enzo to add extra weight! - while test driver Olivier Panis has been on the snow too, for his latest ice racing exploits in Serre-Chevalier.
CASING THE JOINT
Jarno Trulli was happy with Bridgestone's latest tyre developments as he drove more than 100 laps of Barcelona.
Jarno Trulli – Chassis TF106/02
Best lap time: 1m17.060s
Total laps: 110
Total distance: 508.97kms
"It was a very good day in general. We concentrated on tyre testing and set-up work and made strong progress after an early delay due to fog. The reliability looks strong and I also did quite a sensible lap time. Bridgestone has definitely made a good step forward with tyre consistency. They are really working hard and every time we come to the track they bring new specifications that are better suited to our car. We are definitely moving ahead well."
Olivier Panis, like Trulli, concentrated exclusively on tyre work. The hugely experienced Frenchman has a strong feeling about the year ahead.
Olivier Panis – Chassis TF106/01
Best lap time: 1m17.420s
Total laps: 93
Total distance: 430.311kms
"We had a good, positive tyre test. I think that this car is a very good base. The balance is strong with the front and rear working in harmony and the chassis feels nicely stiff. All we are awaiting now is the new aerodynamic kit before Bahrain. That will be an important step and when you take it into account, I think we are performing very well compared with everyone else. I think we are there. I feel very positive, more so than last year. The car just feels better 'connected' and everyone in the team seems together and quietly confident. I'm not feeling any tension. I think everyone is ready for the fight!"
Technical Director, Chassis, Mike Gascoyne was pleased to report a useful first day in Barcelona.
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director, Chassis: "It was a very productive day with both cars doing a lot of laps and running reliably. Both drivers were concentrating on Bridgestone tyre work, running a mixture of casing and compound tests. We managed to get through all the work, both drivers are very happy with the car and there are some very clear tyre directions to work on."