Jerez 3: Alonso flies at Jerez

Fernando Alonso confirmed that Renault's sparkling pace at last week's Valencia test was no flash in the pan as he came close to breaking the lap record at Jerez in Spain on Thursday, with team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella not far behind

Jerez 3: Alonso flies at Jerez

Alonso put in his quick time early in the morning session to outpace Wednesday's fastest runner Juan Pablo Montoya by seven tenths of a second, with Fisichella third fastest overall. The top three runners all set their times while on relatively short lap runs in the morning, before they switched their programme to longer 25-lap stints later in the day. Off the track Alonso was in more relaxed mood, chatting to the press again as the team made it clear that there was no ban on him speaking to the media.

Jarno Trulli continued to show slightly improved form for Toyota, which is fast earning a reputation as the most reliable car in the field. The only dramas for the team were when Ralf Schumacher suffered a total of three spins during the day - only thankfully none of them resulted in any serious damage.

It was another poor day for BAR, with eighth fastest Jenson Button crashing the new 007 at the same Pelequi corner that claimed Sato on Wednesday. Button is believed to have understeered straight off the circuit and hit the barriers, damaging the nose and front suspension - at the very time when the team is getting short of new components.

Sato returned to the cockpit today, having left early on Wednesday following his accident, and felt more at home in the BAR006 - although admitted that he was still concerned about the team's overall pace. The team's boss Nick Fry flew down to the track especially to take a look at the latest developments.

"Finally in the BAR006 I was able to do some laps and we managed to complete a tyre programme," Sato told autosport.com. "I think the season is going to be very difficult because I haven't done many laps in the new car and at the moment all I can say is that the new car lacks grip and we are also lacking in speed."

Williams did not show as convincing pace on Thursday, but that was mostly down to the programme the team was running. Nick Heidfeld, in particular, spent most of the day practicing pit-stops before suffering a mechanical problem in the afternoon, while Mark Webber also lost track time after coming to a halt in the pits.

Kimi Raikkonen turned up at the track but because the new 'horn-wings' parts had not arrived for his car he opted to not run and will instead wait until Friday to get back behind the wheel.



Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1m15.732s, 101 laps
Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren), 1m16.448s, 49 laps
Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1m16.654s, 69 laps
Jarno Trulli (Toyota), 1m16.743s, 92 laps
Felipe Massa (Sauber), 1m17.273, 110 laps
David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing), 1m17.526, 86 laps
Ralf Schumacher (Toyota), 1m17.773s, 73 laps
Jenson Button (BAR), 1m17.989s, 71 laps
Mark Webber (Williams), 1m18.048s, 94 laps
Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), 1m18.119s, 109 laps
Takuma Sato (BAR*), 1m18.150s, 128 laps
Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari*), 1m18.266s, 76 laps
Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing), 1m18.517s, 58 laps
Nick Heidfeld (Williams), 1m18.735s, 55 laps
Jacques Villeneuve (Sauber), 1m19.022s, 109 laps
Vitantonio Liuzzi (Red Bull Racing), 1m20.118s, 61 laps

* - denotes 2004 car

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Alonso Flies at Jerez - Day Three

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