Silv 2: Kimi smashes record

Jacques Villeneuve said his return to F1 was 'easier than expected' after his first day of testing for the Renault F1 team at Silverstone today. The Canadian completed 70 laps in a Renault R24 as he re-acclimatised to F1 and settled into a new team

Silv 2: Kimi smashes record

Although Villeneuve recorded the slowest time of the day, his best time of 1m18.776s was less than a second off Renault regular Fernando Alonso's pace, despite not doing much set-up work.

Now that Jarno Trulli has been released from his Renault contract - the Italian is to be announced as a Toyota driver tomorrow before testing for the Japanese car maker at Silverstone - Villeneuve is poised to replace him for the final three grands prix of the season, should both parties be satisfied with the outcome of the test.

"It's great," said Villeneuve after his first day back in an F1 car in nearly a year. "Silverstone's a great track, it's a fast track and a good track to drive on. We did a lot of laps, 70. So it's just a question of getting used to the team and working on the seat. We did not really do much set-up work today.

Villeneuve has been at the centre of much press speculation in the last week, kicked off when autosport.com exclusively predicted that he was on the verge of signing a two-year deal with Sauber, which was duly announced today.

"When things start going well, then everything that can be good just happens," he said. "It's always that way. That's why in March and April I started training hard just in case, just to be ready, and it's paying off."

Asked whether he would like to see his former team BAR beaten by Renault in the constructors championship Villeneuve responded: "The aim is to help Renault to be second in the constructors championship. Yeah if we can be them [BAR] it would be great. There are a lot of people I have known and worked with at Renault in the past, both with BAR and Williams so it is nice to work with people I know."

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen set a new unofficial lap record at Silverstone, more than two seconds faster than his own pole position time for the British Grand Prix back in July, to top the times. The remarkable thing about the lap was that it was part of four-lap run as opposed to an out-and-out flier. When asked about the lap later on and team insider said: "Kimi was just in the mood!"

Raikkonen's team-mate Pedro de la Rosa was second fastest in the old MP4-19A, while Takuma Sato was third quickest for BAR-Honda. Jenson Button, working on set-up and an aero-package for China, was fifth, while F1's other returnee Ralf Schumacher was ninth quickest for Williams after his lunch break was extended by a technical problem.

Kimi Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes M 1m16.151s 59
Pedro de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes M 1m17.102s 94
Takuma Sato BAR-Honda M 1m17.144s 84
Olivier Panis Toyota M 1m17.283s 101
Jenson Button BAR-Honda M 1m17.457s 103
Ricardo Zonta Toyota M 1m17.653s 129
Marc Gene Williams-BMW M 1m17.706s 80
Fernando Alonso Renault M 1m17.783s 117
Ralf Schumacher Williams-BMW M 1m18.389s 37
Jacques Villeneuve Renault M 1m18.766s 70

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