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Testing begins again

FORMULA 1 testing began again after the month-long ban with Williams, Benetton, McLaren, Prost, Sauber, Minardi and Arrows all in action at Barcelona. The times were fairly irrelevant as all the teams were using different interim cars and different tires as they prepare for the new era of "grooved" slick tires.

Williams tested four youngsters the fastest being Colombian Juan-Pablo Montoya who set a best lap of 1m19.20s in racing trim with new tires. Brazilian Max Wilson was second quickest with a 1m20.40s while France's Soheil Ayari was clocked at 1m21.10s and Nicolas Minassian, nursing a broken finger, at 1m21.40s. All four completed about 60 laps.

The main test then got underway with Benetton setting the pace - as is often the case. The team ran Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz and also Briton Oliver Gavin.

Williams concentrated on developing the narrow-track cars. McLaren did not start running until the third day of the test because of delays getting its contract with Bridgestone signed. David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen then concentrated on engine and tire development work.

The Prost team ran both Panis and Trulli but both suffered engine trouble with the Mugen-Hondas while Sauber had two separate programs going: Herbert continued his work on the 1998 development car while Norberto Fontana pounded around doing engine work. Later in the week the team ran former Arrows test driver Jorg Muller and there has been speculation that he might be taken on this year by the team.

Mika Salo had his first runs for Arrows as he and Pedro Diniz did tire and engine development work while Minardi ran two cars - one for Tarso Marques and another for youngsters Laurent Redon and Tom Kristensen.

Ferrari tested with Nicola Larini at Fiorano, while Jordan ran Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa on the runways at Silverstone, shaking down the interim Jordan-Mugen Honda 197NH (standing for "narrow Honda"). The team had some engine troubles and decided not to travel to Barcelona this week so as to cut down on logistical problems. De la Rosa will continue to run at Silverstone.

There will be further tests at Barcelona this week.

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