Rossi faster on final day, more F1 tests to come.
Valentino Rossi underlined his growing F1 potential with a further half-second improvement on the third and final day of his latest Ferrari test - held at Valencia, alongside much of the current F1 grid - then confirmed "more tests in the coming months".
The Valencia test was Rossi's fourth in a Ferrari Formula One car, but his first with other teams and drivers on track at the same time - after previous private sessions held at Fiorano and Mugello.
The F1 paddock's first impression of Rossi on four-wheels was of the Italian spinning out on his opening lap in the wet of day one, but the five-times reigning MotoGP World Champion soon turned that embarrassment around by setting the 9th fastest time (out of 15 drivers) on a dry day two.
The Doctor's best Wednesday lap (out of 53) was a 1min 12.851secs - leaving the seven times motorcycling world champion within 1.622secs of fastest man, and reigning F1 world champion, Fernando Alonso of Renault. He was also just over a one second slower than seven times world champion, and Ferrari team leader, Michael Schumacher.
Thursday's third and final day then saw Rossi reduce his best lap time to a 1min 12.362secs - again after 53 laps - which was good enough for 12th on the revised driver line-up. Alonso was again fastest, but Rossi was now within 1.5secs of the Spaniard – and, most impressively, just 0.711secs from Schumacher (the full day three times are shown below).
However, according to Ferrari, Rossi was indeed driving an "F2004 fitted with a V10 engine limited to reproduce the conditions set out in this year's regulations" which means that his car was significantly different to the V8 powered 2006 spec machines driven by the majority of drivers present.
The closest comparison that can be made is with Felipe Massa, Schumacher's 2006 Ferrari team-mate, who was driving an "F2004 fitted with the new (unlimited) V8 engine" on Thursday - in other words, the same car as Rossi but with a 2006 spec 2.4 litre V8 engine instead of a limited 3.0 litre V10.
The Brazilian was over one second quicker than Valentino… but McLaren test driving Pedro de la Rosa was reportedly driving a McLaren fitted a V10 engine - and Rossi outpaced the experienced Spaniard by 0.095secs, despite several more spins.
"It was a very revealing test considering that, for the first time, I found myself on the track with Formula 1 drivers," said Rossi after the test, before joking about his day one downfall: "I have to say that I felt at home and did not have any particular problems: perhaps I have to practise a little in driving in the wet!
"As ever, the Ferrari welcome was fantastic. It is a very close knit group and I felt at ease with Michael, Felipe and the technicians and mechanics. I didn't come here to prove anything but to deepen my knowledge of a Formula 1 racing car and I thank Ferrari for continuing to offer me this chance."
Perhaps the biggest regret - for F1 and MotoGP fans alike - is that Rossi wasn't given the opportunity to drive the new (2006 spec) Ferrari 248 at the test, which would have allowed an equal comparison with Schumacher. Nevertheless, we may not have to wait long for such a showdown...
"There will be more tests in the coming months but for now I will get back on the bike as this is at the front of my mind," revealed Rossi. "I, like Ferrari, have a challenge ahead of me: we both have a world title to go for and, possibly, win!"
Rossi will be back in action for Camel Yamaha at the upcoming Qatar MotoGP test, which will take place from February 6-8.