Manama, 10th March 2006
"The first signs are encouraging," is how Ferrari Managing Director Jean Todt summed up the first day of practice
for the Bahrain Grand Prix, the curtain raiser to the 2006 Formula 1 season.
Although the time sheets can be misleading on a Friday, with teams running different programmes and those
outside the top four benefiting from the unrestricted use of a third driver, it does seem that Todt's assessment
looks accurate at the moment. Michael Schumacher finished the first and second hours in fourth and second
places respectively and, on his first official race weekend appearance, team-mate Felipe Massa was eighth and
Quicker than Michael was Anthony Davidson, the Englishman continuing this season as third driver for what was
the BAR team, but is now rebranded as the Honda team. Another third driver is third, in the shape of Alex Wurz. He
too is continuing a role he had in 2005, except that he has switched from McLaren to Williams. Behind Felipe
comes the man who has taken over the "Number 1" sticker on his car that Michael Schumacher had previously
made his own property for so many years: Fernando Alonso in the Renault. Completing the top six on the first active
day of the season was the Scuderia Toro Rosso (formerly Minardi) car of Tonio Liuzzi.
Apart from all the rule changes both technical and sporting that apply this year, the most obvious novelty for 2006 is
that there are eleven teams, with the arrival of the Super Aguri F1 team, run by former GP driver, Aguri Suzuki and
using Honda engines. With seven teams therefore eligible to run a third car, no less than 28 cars were out on track
Another interesting piece of news to emerge here in Bahrain is that all teams have agreed to a restriction on the
amount of testing they can do, in order to reduce costs. The formula for the restriction is fairly complex, but
essentially the number of days during the season are limited to 36. However, each team can nominate a "home"
track and one day's testing at this circuit counts only as a half day. Circuits such as Barcelona, which are popular
for testing and also host a grand prix cannot be selected as a "home" track. In addition, straight line testing for
aerodynamic testing, which Ferrari for example carries out at the Vairano straight, does not have to be included in
these 36 days, but is limited to a total of 12 days. In addition, there is a limit to the number of kilometres that can be
completed to prevent a team turning up for a test with three cars and thus covering a high and therefore expensive