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Testing across Europe

THE Formula 1 teams did not waste any time after returning from Australia to get back to testing in preparation for the forthcoming races in South America. While the smaller teams were still unpacking their equipment and rebuilding the cars, Williams and Ferrari were both in action at Monza in the days after Melbourne.

Williams then went on to Barcelona where testing began with Heinz-Harald Frentzen running the team's FW19 test car on Monday before being given a brand new FW20 to run. He shook this down on Tuesday before handing it over to Jacques Villeneuve, who ran it on Wednesday and Thursday, completing 88 laps with a best time of 1m21.70s. Frentzen went back to work with the FW19 and had completed 210 laps by the end of the four day test. On the last day he handed the FW19 over to Williams's second test driver Max Wilson. The Brazilian completed 20 laps in the car.

In action with Williams at Barcelona was the Jordan team which had one car available for the four-day test. Ralf Schumacher did the first two days, completing a total of 88 laps to record a best time of 1m22.17s, the German reporting that the car was a lot better on the latest Goodyear compounds than it had been on the tires used in Australia. Damon Hill took over on Wednesday and completed 115 laps before a wheel problem cut short his test on Thursday. His best time was an impressive 1m21.55s, just two-tenths slower than Mika Hakkinen's fastest lap time of the winter at the Spanish track.

The Prost team was also in Barcelona for four days but the test was again spoiled by gearbox trouble. Jarno Trulli did the first two days but was restricted to 41 laps because of two separate gearbox problems. On Wednesday Olivier Panis took over and completed a total of 81 laps before the team packed up and headed for Magny-Cours by midday on Thursday. That same day Trulli was back at Magny-Cours shaking down the three chassis which will be used by the team in South America.

Ferrari chose to stay in Italy once again but ran one F300 chassis for six days at Mugello, with Eddie Irvine doing the first three before handing over to Michael Schumacher. The German worked on a variety of different set-ups and did some engine work. He suffered one engine failure but at the end of the week was able to try the team's new exhaust system. On Friday Irvine shook down the three cars which will be used in South America at the Fiorano test track. Ferrari was joined at Mugello by the Minardi team which ran both Shinji Nakano and the team's test driver Laurent Redon.

Sauber ran for three days at Fiorano with Jean Alesi doing the first two and Johnny Herbert doing the final session. Alesi completed 155 laps with only one spin as he tested the latest Goodyear tires while Herbert completed 98 laps in one day.

McLaren chose to stay in England, testing two cars for two days at Silverstone. David Coulthard concentrated on chassis development while Mika Hakkinen worked on tires before suffering an engine problem on the second day. Both drivers recorded times in the mid 1m24s. The closest challenger to that was Alexander Wurz in a Benetton who lapped in 1m26.22s on his third day of testing. He then handed over to his Benetton team mate Giancarlo Fisichella. The Italian did only seven laps to record a best of 1m29.41s.

Also in action at the Northamptonshire track were Tyrrell, Stewart and Arrows. Jackie Stewart's team ran on Monday and Tuesday with Rubens Barrichello doing 33 laps on the first day and Jan Magnussen doing 22 laps as the team tried to cure its gearbox overheating troubles. Magnussen lost time by having a spin, damaging wings when he went over a curb. Arrows had a pair of cars for Pedro Diniz and Mika Salo and while the Brazilian was able to complete 39 laps on Monday, the Finn was restricted to just three laps. The following day Diniz managed six laps but Salo completed 30. Tyrrell ran one car for two days, Ricardo Rosset testing on Monday and Toranosuke Takagi taking over on Tuesday. The Japanese driver suffered some mechanical trouble during his runs.

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