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Pizzonia makes his case

Antonio Pizzonia fired off a spectacular sequence of laps at the end of the third day's testing at Valencia, and sent a timely reminder to Williams and BMW as they adjourned to consider the verdict over whether the Brazilian, or Nick Heidfeld, will partner Mark Webber in the race team in 2005

Although not quite as fast as David Coulthard's Red Bull-Cosworth, which set the benchmark for Thursday's test but was likely to be running on low fuel, Pizzonia conjured a lap of 1m09.447s, some 0.7s faster than Heidfeld managed during the pair's shoot-out yesterday.

"It was a good day," said Pizzonia. "I did a long run which was a very good pace. I was hoping to break the record here (which he set this time last year and stands at 1m09.165s), but it was a good run anyway. I think it was a better day today. I hope everything is going to be okay, we will see."

Pizzonia and Heidfeld may not be told which of them has got the race seat until shortly before the launch of the Williams-BMW FW27 in Valencia next Monday, but sources suggest that BMW Motorsport director Mario Theissen continued to campaign in favour of Heidfeld during Thursday.

A bearded Coulthard, along with potential team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi who was third fastest, both stopped twice with problems during the day. Although they weren't quite as bad as Takuma Sato's after the Japanese driver suffered an engine failure after two laps.

Concerns are growing within the Honda camp over the reliability of the engine, which has still to hit the magic 1000km mark. Three engines have now failed in testing since the new BAR007 car was launched two weeks ago.

"We have a very high target so we have a lot of work to do," said Sato. "But in about two and a half weeks time we have to have a race spec ready. So we will see."

Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest after encountering hydraulic problems with the new Renault R25. Next was Jarno Trulli for Toyota, the Italian concentrating on a tyres and mechanical set-up programme, ahead of Sato and Giancarlo Fisichella who will get his first taste of the new Renault on Friday.

Olivier Panis was eighth fastest ahead of BAR-Honda's Jenson Button, who only completed 68 laps, because of a muscle spasm that has caused him to cancel the rest of his test. Sato will replace him alongside Anthony Davidson.

Andy Priaulx did a solid job on his first day driving an F1 car. The FIA European Touring Car Champion, who was rewarded by BMW with an F1 test, suffered a gearbox failure and an engine blow-up but nonetheless managed to complete 64 laps.

David Coulthard (Red Bull), 1m09.175s, 99
Antonio Pizzonia (Williams), 1m09.447s, 97
Vitantonio Liuzzi (Red Bull), 1m10.224s, 100
Fernando Alonso (Renault), 1m10.398s, 87
Jarno Trulli (Toyota), 1m10.597s, 111
Takuma Sato (BAR), 1m11.140s, 83
Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), 1m11.282, 91
Olivier Panis (Toyota), 1m11.460s, 65
Jenson Button (BAR), 1m11.557s, 68
Andy Priaulx (Williams), 1m12.790s 64

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