FEBRUARY 7, 2007

First impressions - Williams is quick

The testing at Jerez on Tuesday gave Williams the first opportunity to show off the new FW29 and the times at the end of the first day suggest that the car is pretty competitive. Alexander Wurz finished the day having completed 73 laps with a best time of 1m20.035s, just a fraction slower than Pedro de la Rosa's McLaren, which stopped the clocks at 1m19.998s.

The current logic in F1 circles is that the McLaren will be the car to beat this year, although Ferrari is also looking pretty good. Renault is supposed to have dropped off the pace a little.

Williams will no doubt be happy with the performance but the team is very cautious when it comes to making predictions and looking closely at the numbers the times are not that spectacular compared to some others that have been achieved. Having said that, conditions change and so it is difficult to judge one day compared to another and the fact that the Williams was on the pace of the McLaren at the end of its first day is promising. The fastest time at the track in recent weeks went to Heikki Kovalainen in the Renault during its first test three weeks ago with a best lap of 1m19.185s. That was at the end of a four-day test so there was rubber on the track whereas yesterday's running saw the track rather dusty after several weeks of inactivity. Nonetheless, Williams must be happy to have done more than 600km of running on the first day without teething problems.

"We had two cars on track straight away with Alex and Nico," said Technical Director Sam Michael. "Completing 611kms in total on the first running day with no issues with temperatures, vibrations etc., is a good start. Motivation within the team is really high and everyone is pushing hard to get the best out of the car before the first Grand Prix. Both drivers started testing different set-up packages before midday as there are some interesting new directions with this car and the Bridgestone Potenza tyres."

Also showing well was the BMW of Robert Kubica who was third quickest, just a tenth slower than the Williams. Lewis Hamilton was next in his McLaren, just two-tenths off de la Rosa's best and a shade quicker than Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari. Ralf Schumacher was in the mix too with a 1m20.251s but the Toyota team may have ended the day looking at the Williams times and wondering what they are doing wrong, given that the two teams share the same engines and the Toyota has been running for several weeks.

Also right there was Jenson Button in the Honda with a lap that was only around four-tenths off de la Rosa's best. There was not much to report from Renault and Red Bull with David Coulthard 12th overall with a best lap that was a second off the McLaren and the two Renault test drivers being slower than that, the team deciding to do endurance work on the first day of the test because of the condition of the track.

The next few days will be interesting.