Ferrari quickest at Barcelona test
The Ferrari team set the fastest times during the recent three day Bridgestone tyre test programme in Barcelona which say the third day (Thursday) washed out by heavy rain and flooding.
Luca Badoer opened the testing for Ferrari on Tuesday, the Italian setting the fastest time of the day of 1m 24,19 secs and running 60 laps on a dry track. Michael Schumacher took over on Wednesday but ran only 33 laps with a best of 1m 23,946 secs despite an off course excursion that damaged his car's undertray.
Schumacher stopped running early due to the violent winds and freezing temperatures which made any tyre evaluation programme virtually impossible. Bridgestone were running the same tyres which they tested after the Japanese Grand Prix as well as a softer compound which reportedly did not last too long in there new regulation 4-groove tread design.
The team is planning another test in Jerez from the 8th to the 10th of December which Eddie Irvine should be driving all three days, while Badoer will run two and Schumacher one. The Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro design team led by Ross Brawn has apparently finalised the new car's profile in the wind tunnel and are working on the details under the supervision of Rory Byrne and the team's new aerodynamicist, Nicolas Tombasis who formerly worked with Benetton.
Sarrazin test for Prost
Test driver Stephan Sarrazin joined Jarno Trulli for the Barcelona test for the Prost team , their young test driver standing in for Olivier Panis who was recovering from an operation to remove the pins from his legs which were broken in last year's Canadian Grand Prix accident.
On Tuesday Sarrazin learned the circuit running the AP01 chassis fitted with the A16 Evo2 engine and a new gearbox giving a longer wheelbase. He worked mainly of the electronic differential set-up and new disc and brake pads from Carbone Industrie. He also ran tests on new dampers for the 1999 chassis. These dampers, still in the prototype stage, have already produced better traction and stability. Sarrazin's best time was a 1m 26,30 secs on Tuesday which he improved to 1m 25,86 secs on Wednesday.
Trulli was driving the AP01B chassis with the new A18 engine and new gearbox, the Italian concentrating on different weight distribution and trying the new dampers. Gearbox work took more time than expected on Tuesday and prevented him from doing many laps, his best time a 1m 25,72 secs. On Wednesday he recorded a 1m 25,32 secs before being sidelined prematurely by an engine failure. The rain on Thursday prevented any more running.
Minardi runs its young drivers
Still suffering from the after effects of his accident in Japan, Esteban Tuero was absent from the minardi testing, the team taking the opportunity to run three new drivers under the guidance of the team's new team manager Cesare Fiorio. Test driver Laurent Redon did 64 laps on Tuesday with a best of 1m 27,408 secs followed by Spain's Marc Gene and Dutchman Dany Crevels on Wednesday. Gene set a 1m 27,095 secs after 30 laps and Crevels 1m 29,638 secs after 32 laps. On Thursday Gene ran just 12 laps in the wet, while Crevels crashed on his first lap. The team will not take part in the Jerez test, but plan to have their new car ready for mid-January.
Heidfeld gets his chance in the McLaren
European F3000 vice-champion Nick Heidfeld joined David Coulthard for the test in Barcelona, new World Champion Mika Hakkinen otherwise occupied with a busy round of appearances throughout Europe. Heidfeld set an impressive second fastest time on Wednesday with a 1m 24,08 secs , Coulthard , like Heidfeld was concentrating on tyre development work , the Scot second fastest on Tuesday with a 1m 24,23 secs. Heidfeld set a first day time of 1m 24,88 secs, the German lightly damaging the front end of his McLaren when he spun off.
On Wednesday Coulthard ran comparative tests for Bridgestone with a best of 1m 24,12 secs and a total of 38 laps, his best time just outside that of Schumacher's best. Rain ended the test a day early for the McLaren pair.
Two Williams in Barcelona
Test driver Max Wilson joined Alex Zanardi for the Williams testing in Barcelona, the Brazilian standing in for Ralf Schumacher who was recovering from a recent tonsillectomy.
Wilson ran both days with a best of 1m 25,67 secs on Tuesday (33 laps) while Zanardi recorded a best of 1m 25,87 secs (34 laps), both drivers testing systems and components for the 1999 chassis. "We have a lot of work to do , including learning how to get the most out of the new Bridgestone tyres," said James Robinson. The test also gave Alex another chance to get used to the car and the team," he added, the Italian encouraged by the improvements he found in the car over the two days of testing.
On Wednesday Zanardi ran 45 laps for a best of 1m 25,07 secs, Wilson down to 1m 24,93 secs. Neither driver was able to run properly on Thursday because of the rain.
Diniz tries the Sauber
Pedro Diniz ran two days with the Sauber C17 at Barcelona in order to acquaint himself with the car and the team. He drove 53 laps on each day with a best of 1m 25,47 secs the first day and 1m 24,81 secs the second day. He was happy with the car and especially the engine, the Brazilian setting his time on the harder of the two tyre compounds. On Tuesday his test was interrupted by a gearbox problem and on Wednesday by a scheduled engine change. Alesi was on hand for Thursday, but did only one lap before stopping because of the weather.
Benetton remains at home
The Benetton team did not take part in the Barcelona tests, Fisichella and Wurz attending the opening of the team's advanced new wind tunnel at their Enstone HQ instead. The new tunnel was designed to test a 50 percent scale car, but can also take a full size car.
Arrows keeping quiet
Although a team spokesperson has confirmed that Tom Walkinshaw may be speaking with potential investors, "We have no comment or announcements to make at this time." Mika Salo is expected to stay with the team next year and was testing the car in Barcelona where he ran a test programme on the new 99 spec engine as well as a new gearbox and other components. In order to complete the test , he was one of the only drivers to run in the wet and completed some 48 laps on Thursday running 420 kms in total with the engine. On Tuesday he ran 50 laps with a best of 1m 25,39 secs and a 1m 25,61 secs on Wednesday with just 22 laps after being hampered by some gearbox problems.
The team plan to take part in a second Barcelona test programmed for the 15th-18th of December.
Toranosuke Takagi is expected to sign up imminently for the second seat at Arrows strengthening rumours that Yamaha or another Japanese manufacturer could become a partner in the Arrows team.
Burti and Herbert run for Stewart
Brazilian Luciano Burti was brought in to test for the Stewart team in Barcelona along with new signing Johnny Herbert . It was F3 star Burti's first F1 official test session. "It was great and I felt quite at ease driving alongside many established Grand Prix drivers," said the 22-year-old from Sao Paulo who managed a best lap of 1m 26,77 secs on Tuesday against a 1m 25,99 secs best from Herbert the following day. On Wednesday Burti managed a best of only 1m 27,60 secs running only 31 laps due to gearbox problems, Herbert setting his best time on Wednesday. On Thursday Burti was due to run two 20 laps tests , but the rain spoiled that plan. The team plans another test at Silverstone before returning to Barcelona on December 15th.