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No respite for the big teams

THE major flights from Montreal to Europe did not take off until the Monday evening after the Canadian Grand Prix. This meant that several of the F1 engineers did not land in Britain until Tuesday morning. They then had just enough time to go home, change suitcases and go back to the airport to depart that evening for Barcelona, where another test began on Wednesday morning.

Williams, McLaren and Sauber all had their test teams in Spain; and Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen and Heinz-Harald Frentzen flew in to do the driving. Benetton, in the meantime, chose to go to Silverstone where Johnny Herbert was in action on the south circuit.

The other teams could not begin testing until this week when their cars arrived back from Canada.

In Barcelona Damon Hill set the fastest time of the three-day test with a best lap of 1m21.62s - slower than the 1m20.98s achieved by Michael Schumacher some weeks ago - although conditions were very different. Hill did the first two days of the test before handing over to test driver Jean-Christophe Boullion on Friday. The young Frenchman was second fastest to Hill, setting a best lap of 1m24.45s after 65 laps. Hakkinen had engine problems in his McLaren and managed only a 1m24.58s, and Frentzen's best was 1m25.07s. Sauber stayed on in Barcelona over the weekend with Boullion changing overalls to test for the Swiss team.

All the major British teams are to test at Silverstone this week in preparation for the British Grand Prix, but the foreign teams are not allowed to join in and, with Monza out of commission while work is done in preparation for the Italian GP, Sauber, Ferrari and Minardi are having to work elsewhere. Ligier is testing at Magny-Cours where the team hopes to make a big impression at the French Grand Prix in two weeks. The team traditionally does well at its home circuit - in 1993 MartinĘBrundle and Mark Blundell managed to qualify third and fourth on the grid - and this year is particularly important as a good showing in France should help the team convince Gitanes and Elf to stay with Ligier next year.

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