Williams-BMW set the pace on the first day of a test session at Valencia on Tuesday, but David Coulthard stole the show by giving McLaren’s 2004-contender, the MP4-19, its first outing.

Williams-BMW set the pace on the first day of a test session at Valencia on Tuesday, but David Coulthard stole the show by giving McLaren’s 2004-contender, the MP4-19, its first outing.


Juan-Pablo Montoya set the pace as five Michelin-shod teams began a multi-day session at the Spanish track. The Colombian’s team-mates, Ralf Schumacher and Marc Gene, were second- and third quickest.


Montoya, who recently signed to drive for McLaren-Mercedes in 2005, completed 69 laps, but Schumacher ran into a few niggles and only completed 37 laps. Gene was evaluating the new 2004-spec “long-life” engine and his carefully-driven 56 laps included an encouraging time of 1:11,224s - just over a second slower than Montoya.


McLaren test driver Alex Wurz was best of the rest at the wheel of a 2003 MP4-17D. The Woking-based team was using the MP4-17D to compare its performance with the new MP4-19.


“I'm very excited to be back with a new car," said Coulthard after trying the MP4-19 at Valencia. "It's always an exciting time after a break. It has been extremely positive so far and it is exciting that we have a new car to test so early. The first day of the challenge for the championship starts here today.”


The MP4-19 is the first 2004 car to break cover and Coulthard completed two installation runs and three timed laps. His fastest lap was just under two seconds slower than Montoya's best.


"We only made one set-up change this morning," the Scot said, "and the car responded very well. If it is as responsive as that, it will be very interesting.”


“I am lying much flatter in the car than I did in 17D, but because I haven't driven for a while it is not too noticeable. It is narrower in the footwell too,” he added.


The new Mercedes-Benz FO110Q engine was also given a shakedown, but Coulthard did not say much about it: “I can't say there is much of a difference yet, but so far it is promising.”


Meanwhile, Franck Montagny and Jarno Trulli both notched up many laps for Renault. The Frenchman was slightly quicker than his team-mate and the pair worked on the car’s engine set-up.


Jaguar Racing began a young driver evaluation programme in its quest to find the ideal candidate to partner Mark Webber in the 2004 season. Red Bull-backed Austrian Formula 3 star Christian Klien was determined to make an impression against his fellow young tester this week, American Townsend Bell.


"It will be a match-up between him and myself," said Klien. "Both of us want to be faster and this means a lot of pressure. But I know I am very quick and will try to find a compromise between lapping the track as fast as possible and not spinning off and ruining the car."


Webber was quickest on Tuesday, but Premier Automotive Group executives Tony Purnell and Wolfgang Reitzle would have been impressed by the youngsters. Klien was only just over a tenth of a second slower than Webber in his first F1 appearance. Bell, who tested for BAR before, was 0,4 seconds off Webber's pace.


In Barcelona, Luca Badoer set the pace, a few tenths faster than Ferrari test driver (and Sauber driver in 2004) Felipe Massa. Luciano Burti's chances of making it an all-Ferrari F2003-GA top three were spoiled when he suffered a mechanical failure and could only manage 36 laps.


Former Jordan-Ford driver Giancarlo Fisichella didn't take long to ease his way into Sauber with the third fastest time in the C22, just seven tenths off the fastest time of the day.


Takuma Sato's 2003-spec BAR was fourth fastest, while Jenson Button evaluated an experimental BAR concept car that features the 2004 engine, gearbox and aerodynamic package.