DECEMBER 16, 1996
SIX Grand Prix teams were in action last week at the Circuit de Catalunya, near Barcelona, conducting tire testing and working on parts which will appear on the 1997 cars. Fastest during the four day test was Jacques Villeneuve, who ran for the first two days when the weather was at its best, using a Williams-Renault FW18B, a 1996 car fitted with the new Renault RS9 engine. The test was mainly for engine work and tire development but there were also a few components being tried in preparation for the FW19. Villeneuve handed over to Heinz-Harald Frentzen but the weather meant that the German could not get within a second and a half of Villeneuve in his two days of tests. He ended up sixth fastest. The Williams pair completed 265 laps with Villeneuve's best being 1m19.35s - which compares favorably to Damon Hill's pole position lap last May of 1m20.65s.
Gerhard Berger set the fastest time for Benetton - recording a 1m19.64s in the course of his 210 laps of the circuit over four days. The Austrian was concentrating on Goodyear tire development and was not using the new Renault engine. Jean Alesi also ran for all four days, doing a lot of set-up work and completed 156 laps with a best of 1m20.59s.
Eddie Irvine was fourth fastest, recording a lap of 1m20.61s in the course of his 146 laps. He worked on the Ferrari hydraulic differential, composite suspension, Goodyear tires and the Ferrari brakes. The team returned to Italy on Thursday but is expected to run at Fiorano today and tomorrow with test driver Nicola Larini. Michael Schumacher is on holiday.
David Coulthard was fifth fastest for McLaren, running 125 laps in three days doing Goodyear and electronic development work. His best lap was a 1m20.82s. Mika Hakkinen completed 100 laps but his best was only a 1m21.04s.
Jordan had a lot of media interest as a result of its decision to test Nigel Mansell but Ralf Schumacher did most of the work, running 137 laps in three days to record a best of 1m22.51s. Mansell's best was 1m22.97s after only 52 laps.
Also in action was the Arrows team - busy doing development work for Bridgestone. Pedro Diniz and Jorg Muller completed 173 laps over three days matching Ralf Schumacher's best times. It should be noted that Diniz was remarkably quick in the wet weather conditions on Thursday morning - confirming suggestions that Bridgestone has highly competitive wet weather rubber.
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