From Formula One racing’s newest venue to one of its most historic - this week the teams travel from Turkey to the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza for an intensive testing session in preparation for the Italian Grand Prix at the circuit on September 4.
In what looks set to be one of the year’s busiest weeks of testing, all ten teams are expected to attend the session sometime between Tuesday and Friday. For all except Ferrari it will be their first track visit outside of race weekends since the end of the voluntary six-week summer test ban.
Ferrari are due to kick off their four day programme with a solo session on Tuesday. Expect to see Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer in action during the week, though Barrichello is likely to be excluded from 2006 development work due to his imminent departure for BAR. However, his replacement, Felipe Massa, will spend two days with the team, on loan from Sauber.
The remainder of the teams should join proceedings for three days from Wednesday (two days from Thursday for Minardi). With championship leaders Renault now firmly in their sights, McLaren will have Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya present throughout. They will be partnered by test drivers Alexander Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa on Wednesday and Thursday.
Renault, meanwhile, are all too aware that they cannot afford to relax - McLaren are now just nine points behind in the constructors’ championship - and Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella will be working flat out to try and push the pace of the R25 closer to that of the MP4-20. They may have to wait for the results, though, as Renault’s next major upgrade package is not expected until Brazil.
A few more Turkey-like performances from Ferrari and Toyota could yet snatch third place in the constructors’ standings. With that in mind, the Japanese team will have Ralf Schumacher (Wednesday to Friday), Jarno Trulli (Thursday and Friday) and Ricardo Zonta (Wednesday) all in the TF105 cockpit at Monza.
For Williams, their disastrous outing in Istanbul means they have some real work to do if they are to stand a chance of catching Toyota, currently 19 points ahead in the table. The team will hope to have discovered the cause of their mysterious right-rear tyre failures by the time they begin testing and Mark Webber, Nick Heidfeld and Nico Rosberg are all due to pilot the FW27.
Red Bull may have brought both cars home in the points in Turkey, but given BAR’s pace there they must realise their chances of staying ahead of their Honda-powered rivals in the standings are slim (just three points separate them at present). That doesn’t mean they won’t be trying, of course, and both squads will be flat out to find those elusive few tenths of a second.
Sauber lie eighth in the championship table, ten points adrift of BAR. Jacques Villeneuve is expected to commence the Swiss team’s Monza programme, with Felipe Massa joining for the final day following his stint with his 2006 team. However, there is speculation that Sauber tyre suppliers Michelin may request the Brazilian be put on testing ‘gardening leave’ now that his move to Bridgestone-shod Ferrari has been confirmed.
Jordan, just three points off Sauber with five rounds to go, will continue development work with the long-awaited EJ15B, ahead of a possible race debut at the Italian Grand Prix. As well as race drivers Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan, recent third-driver recruit Nicolas Kiesa will also be on duty, along with occasional tester Nicky Pastorelli.
Look out for daily updates on the teams’ progress at Monza later in the week. Please note all schedules and line-ups are provisional and subject to change.