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 Upon completion of the first major test of the year at Jerez, the honours were shared between Ferrari (no surprise) with their new car, Renault (a bit of a surprise) with their old car and Toyota (a big surprise) with their new car. If you include the three days that McLaren ran before everyone else turned up then it was the new MP4/23 that will be the car to beat.

  Ferraris new F2008, which somehow reminds me of some creature out of one of the Star Wars films, began their test in fine form with Raikkonen and Massa posting the two fastest times on the first of the multi team days, Raikkonen being almost a second faster than any other team. On day two they were being just pipped by McLaren & Alonso but by day three were almost a second off Glock’s pace. These times mean absolutely nothing of course as one can never tell what fuel loads cars are carrying in testing but what it does show, is that Ferrari again are there or there-abouts with the new car and Raikkonen was all praise for the F2008. “We improved from last year in the areas that we wanted to improve and it seems to have worked.” If you’ve ever heard one of Kimi’s press conferences, you know that is high, and particularly verbose, praise indeed.  BMW-Sauber were absent while waiting for their new car launch in Germany while Renault had both race drivers on duty in last years car. Piquet had a difficult single day in the car completing just 41 laps and only setting the 9th quickest time out of the fourteen drivers on the track. Alonso, in his first outing since returning to his World Championship winning team, raised everyone’s spirits at Renault setting the fastest time on day two and third fastest time on the final day. It will be interesting to see what the combination of Alonso and the new R28 will be like next week at Valencia.  The consistent pace of the interim Williams FW29B was one of the pleasant surprises of the week with Rosberg regularly being amongst the quick runners. Seventh on day one, fourth on day two should give them some confidence about the upcoming season. Depending of course, on the FW30. Nakajima slowly played himself in over the three days to finish ninth fastest on the final day and 12th overall. Tester Nico Hulkenberg tarnished his image a little while bringing out the red flags on three occasions on his only day in the Williams. He set the second slowest time of day three and was almost 4½ seconds off the pace.  Both Red Bull drivers spent a day in last years car before they both got a run in the new RB4 on the final day. Neither set the world on fire in either and Red Bulls reliability came under question once again when the Renault engine went pop with just eight minutes to go on day three while Coulthard was running.How long can Webber remain upbeat while driving a pin-less hand-grenade? One prays for improvement.  Toyota had three drivers on hand for the debut of the TF108 although test driver Kobayashi only got to play with last years brick. Trulli did nothing special on day one in the new car but new boy Timo Glock raised a few eyebrows with a competent mid 20’s on day two and a stunning fastest time of 1’19.799 on the last day. A sign of things to come, or was it in an underweight car with bugger all fuel and brand new tyres? Time will tell.  The Ferrari engined Red Bull (sorry – Toro Rosso) continued it’s fine late season form with both Vettel and Champ Car refugee Bourdais both finishing in the overall top ten. Vettel just pipped Bourdais but both were usually just a couple of tenths apart as has been the case since Bourdais started testing with the team. This could end up being one of the most interesting inter team battles to watch this year.  Honda were happy to leave all their testing to Super Aguri once again however this time that plan backfired (quite literally) when Rossiter’s car went up in flames after just ten laps on day one. This all became rather farcical when the plane that was bringing out the spares had mechanical difficulties and the parts were put onto a flight to Malaga instead. This in itself may not have been a problem except the motorway from Malaga to Jerez was closed due to roadworks so the parts never arrived. Well not on time anyway.  Both Fisichella and Sutil had a day each in the Jordan (Sorry – Midland, whoops – Spyker, bugger – Force India) with the Italian coming out a second up on the German. However Giancarlo did run on the faster of the two days so that gap was also meaningless. Test driver Liuzzi also had a day in the car but did nothing great and was over three seconds off the pace. The only real ray of hope was that Fisichella got into the mid-field pack with a time in the 1’20s.  Finally, McLaren. (This was done in car number order) Well the new car is definitely on the pace. Overall three of the fastest four times were McLarens, only Alonso preventing a clean sweep. Two of those times were set while McLaren had the track to themselves a few days before everyone else turned up but even when all the teams were there. A McLaren (each of Hamilton, Kovalainen and de la Rosa managed this) was in the top three over the three days of the group test. Including their three days of solo running Hamilton set the pace by three tenths from Kovalainen.   So McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and Toyota all set fastest times. If that continues, we may be in for a very good year.  

1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren MP4/23 1'19.132 (2,3)
2 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren MP4/23 1'19.462
3 Fernando Alonso Renault R27 1'19.503 (5)
4 Pedro de la Rosa McLaren MP4/23 1'19.650 (1)
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari F2008 1'19.708 (4)
6 Nico Rosberg Williams FW29 1'19.756
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari F2008 1'19.772
8 Timo Glock Toyota TF108 1'19.799 (6)
9 Sebastian Vettel Toro Rosso STR02 1'20.305
10 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso STR02 1'20.346
11 Mark Webber Red Bull RB3 1'20.392
12 Kazuki Nakajima Williams FW29 1'20.526
13 Kamui Kobayashi Toyota TF107 1'20.577
14 Giancarlo Fisichella Spyker F8-VII-B 1'20.764
15 Jarno Trulli Toyota TF108 1'21.314
16 Nelson Piquet Jr Renault R27 1'21.696
17 Adrian Sutil Spyker F8-VII-B 1'21.705
18 David Coulthard Red Bull RB3 1'21.746
19 Vitantonio Liuzzi Spyker F8-VII-B 1'23.035
20 Nico Hulkenberg Williams FW29 1'24.023
21 James Rossiter Honda RA107 1'34.862
(-) Fastest on day.