Paul Ricard, day 3: Ralf fastest

Williams continued to set the pace in testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in France today (Thursday), with Ralf Schumacher assuming driving duties and a spot atop the timesheets from team-mate Marc Gene

Paul Ricard, day 3: Ralf fastest

The German, who was working on an engine development programme for BMW and Michelin tyre selection for the next race in Austria, outpaced the McLaren duo of Alex Wurz and David Coulthard.

Wurz was working on tyre development for the team, whilst Coulthard concentrated on fine-tuning the car's set-up, completing a massive 155 laps along the way.

Another driver to complete a long stint at the wheel was BAR star Jenson Button, who drove 116 laps of the track. "We worked on the reliability of the engine and we did a big tyre test," the Briton told autosport.com. "I did a massive amount of laps. It was good."

Button also gave his opinion of the circuit's recently installed tyre barriers, after he was one of the most vocal critics of the tracks safety at his last visit. "It's good and a definite improvement," he said, "but you need tyre barriers everywhere here. Yesterday I went off. I didn't touch the wall, but the asphalt didn't slow me down at all."

Renault ace Jarno Trulli was fourth fastest, continuing the team's engine development programme from yesterday. Allan McNish also ran for the outfit, conducting a suspension development programme in a 2002-spec car.

Ricardo Zonta set the fifth fastest time for Toyta, with the Brazilian and team-mate Olivier Panis conducting work a tyre development programme, along with work on the cars stability and braking.

Jaguar ace Mark Webber was in action for the British team, in his first test at the French track. "I did enjoy the circuit," he told autosport.com. "It was a very productive test. We checked on the reliability of the engine and tried brake developments. I don't think we have one step coming before Austria, but the reliability is good."

Nick Heidfeld continued an aerodynamic development programme for Sauber, although he failed to achieve all the team had planned after stopping on the circuit twice in the afternoon, once when his throttle stuck open.

Ralf Schumacher Williams-BMW M 1m11.221s 96
Alex Wurz McLaren-Mercedes M 1m11.322s 76
David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes M 1m12.069s 155
Jarno Trulli Renault M 1m12.780s 73
Ricardo Zonta Toyota M 1m13.013s 84
Takuma Sato BAR-Honda B 1m13.161s 109
Mark Webber Jaguar M 1m13.432s 69
Olivier Panis Toyota M 1m13.574s 59
Jenson Button BAR-Honda B 1m13.601s 116
Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Petronas B 1m14.052s 87
Allan McNish Renault M 1m15.015s 72*

B = Bridgestone
M = Michelin
* denotes 2002 car

Ferrari continued testing at its Fiorano test track today, with Michael Schumacher replacing Rubens Barrichello at the wheel. Conducting development work in an F2003-GA, the world champion completed 137 laps, with a best time of 56.566s.

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Williams Still Ahead at Paul Ricard - Day Three

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