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Last week at Monza

FORMULA 1's non-stop testing program continued last week at the Autodromo Nazionale at Monza in Italy with Jordan-Peugeot driver Ralf Schumacher setting the fastest time of the week, highlighting a leap forward in the competitiveness of the Jordan thanks to new rear bodywork which has helped the team improve its straight-line speed figures.

Schumacher did only two of the three-day Jordan test, his team mate Giancarlo Fisichella doing the work on the opening day, when he completed 54 laps of the 3.6-mile circuit with a best lap of 1m23.86s. Giancarlo concentrated on tire development work. He had one small off-track excursion when he was pottering around on a slow IN lap.

Schumacher took over on Wednesday morning and continued the tire work, despite one spin. The following day he had a Peugeot engine failure and another off but set the fastest lap of the week with a 1m23.20s, nearly three seconds inside his brother's pole position time at the Italian GP in September last year.

Second fastest in the test was Williams driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen who completed a total of 131 laps in three days, culminating in a lap of 1m23.69s Jacques Villeneuve was also in action for all three days of the test and completed a massive total of 160 laps with a best lap on Wednesday of 1m23.84s, the fourth fastest time of the week. Williams had a second simultaneous test going on at Silverstone where test driver Jean-Christophe Boullion continued his development work with the narrow-track 1998-spec car on treaded tires. The Frenchman completed 70 laps of the circuit.

Splitting the two Williams drivers was Sauber's Johnny Herbert who took part in the first two days of the test, managing to complete 120 laps as he worked on high-speed aerodynamics. Despite his first engine failure of the year, Herbert was able to record a best lap of 1m23.72s before he handed his car over to Norberto Fontana. The Argentine completed 50 laps but could do no better than 1m26.45s.

Benetton had a busy test with two cars for its three drivers. Jean Alesi did only 73 flying laps in the course of the three days but on the final afternoon was able to record a best of 1m23.74s. On the first day of the testing Alexander Wurz drove the second Benetton, completing 32 laps with a best of 1m24.91s. Gerhard Berger then took over the car and did 55 laps which included a frightening high-speed series of spins when his throttle stuck open. His best lap was a 1m24.53s.

McLaren's David Coulthard was the fastest man not to get into the 1m23s, showing that the McLaren-Mercedes MP4-12 continues to struggle at tracks where there are high-speed corners. David had a high-speed crash after only three laps on the first day of the test and managed to do only 53 laps in his two days of running. His best lap was a 1m24.22s. Mika Hakkinen also had an accident that day but went on to complete a total of 125 laps with a best of 1m24.54s. The team was also running an independent test at Silverstone with Nick Heidfeld continuing his development work with the 1998-spec car.

Ferrari spent four days at the test with Michael Schumacher doing all the work. The German completed 140 laps but was not happy as he could do no better than a 1m24.87s. The test was disrupted by a right rear tire failure after Michael ran over a piece of debris at around 180mph. Luckily Michael was able to control the car. He later had gearbox trouble and an engine failure when he tried to run a race distance on the final day of the test. Eddie Irvine did not appear at Monza but spent Friday and Saturday testing for the Hungaroring at the twisty Fiorano test track.

The Prost team began testing at Monza on Monday - the day after the British GP - with Shinji Nakano doing the first two days of the test before handing the car over to Jarno Trulli. The Italian completed a day and a half of running before heading for home while Nakano began work with a new 1998-spec Prost car with grooved tires. This suffered a gearbox failure only 20 laps. In the course of the testing Nakano's best time was a 1m26.80s, while Trulli completed 60 laps and recorded an impressive 1m24.42s.

Minardi joined in the action with two cars for two days: Ukyo completing 100 laps with a best of 1m27.57s, while TarsoÊMarques did 52 with a best of 1m27.70s. Luca Badoer tested one of the cars on Wednesday morning.

Tyrrell did not start testing until Wednesday and only Mika Salo was in action, Jos Verstappen preferring to continue treatment for neck problems following his crash at Magny-Cours. Salo completed over 120 laps with a best of 1m25.8s. He also tried the 025X - a 1998-spec car - and was able to get down to times of 1m30s.

Arrows and Stewart chose to stay in England with tests at Silverstone on Tuesday and Wednesday. Arrows ran Pedro Diniz and test driver Jorg Muller on the first day of the test, Muller doing 58 laps as he tried a revised cooling system for the troublesome Yamaha V10 engines. Hill took over on Wednesday, trying the new system and also running 1998-spec tires for Bridgestone.

Stewart concentrated on engines, having suffered far too many engine failures in the course of the British GP weekend - with Hockenheim being particularly tough on engines the team needs to find some reliability.

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