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Williams dominate Barcelona testing

WILLIAMS took its new FW20 chassis to Barcelona last week and was quickly on the pace with the new car, setting the fastest times throughout the six days of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya. Jacques Villeneuve started off the test on Sunday, February 1 with a lap of 1m25.04s and matched that pace on the following two days, ending up with around 100╩laps (300 miles) under his belt. Heinz-Harald Frentzen then took over with the new car and completed another 725 miles in the course of his three days of running, recording a best lap of 1m23.40s, as he did set-up work on the car and Goodyear tire development. The team packed up delighted at the success of the first test. Villeneuve ended up third fastest behind Giancarlo╩Fisichella's Benetton.

The Enstone team started work on Monday with a plan to spend five days developing the B198 which had some problems in earlier Barcelona tests, and developing Bridgestone tires. Alexander Wurz did the first two days of the test, completing 70╩laps with a best of 1m26.02s, despite some less than perfect weather conditions. Fisichella then took over and in the course of his three days of running 216 laps (640 miles) including a full race distance. His best lap, on the final day of the test, was a 1m24.22s - which was 0.82s slower than Frentzen's best. Benetton said that it was quite satisfied with the test and will be back in action at the track on Wednesday when the next big test begins.

Sauber ran the new C17 chassis for four days, beginning on Sunday when Jean Alesi had his first chance to try the car. The Frenchman completed 63 laps with a best of 1m25.37s on the first day but on Monday he crashed the car heavily after only 15 laps and damaged the rear end. Johnny Herbert then took over the testing and completed a total of 60 laps in the course of the next two days, despite a gearbox software problem which lost the team a lot of time on the first of Johnny's two days. His best was a 1m25.46s.

McLaren actually set the fastest lap of the test, early in the week, but as it was the only team using the old 1997 cars the lap times were largely irrelevant. The fastest lap of all went to Mika Hakkinen who stopped the clocks at 1m22.74s on the first day of the test. The Finn completed a total of 84 laps in the course of his three days of testing, while David Coulthard did 105 laps with a best of 1m23.29s.

Jordan started work on Sunday with Ralf Schumacher completing 94 laps with the new Jordan-Mugen Honda in the course of his two days of running. This included one spin without any major damage. Damon Hill took over the testing on Tuesday and during his three days of running completed a total of 107 laps with a best of 1m26.06s. Schumacher's best was a 1m26.26s.

Minardi ran its new M198 for five days with Esteban Tuero doing the first two, completing 40 laps with a best of 1m29.23s before handing over the car to new signing Shinji Nakano. The Japanese driver did a total of 75 laps with a best lap of 1m27.19s.

Tyrrell ran for three days with Toranosuke Takagi completing 139 laps with a best of 1m27.19s, which was 3.79s slower than Frentzen's best lap for Williams. Tyrrell will be back in Barcelona for the next test, beginning on Wednesday.

Neither Stewart nor Arrows were present in Spain both preferring to stay in England for a few more days. Stewart╩Grand╩Prix's troubles have not eased. Rubens Barrichello ran the SF2 for the first time at the Santa Pod drag racing strip on Tuesday and then moved on to begin work at Silverstone on Thursday. Jan Magnussen did only half a lap before he suffered an engine problem and managed only four laps later in the day.

Arrows had an easier time with the new A19 which continued its shakedown runs on Monday and Thursday. The team was due to begin testing the car in Barcelona on Monday. The car will be officially launched at Leafield on February 17.

Prost Grand Prix stayed at Magny-Cours and ran from Monday to Wednesday, despite freezing conditions in central France. The team tested modifications for the new gearbox and Jarno Trulli was able to complete 60 laps on the first day and Olivier Panis 72 laps on Tuesday and Wednesday. The team had a brief shakedown test at the end of the week before stopping to prepare for a test which is planned for Barcelona this week.

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