Foul weather disrupts testing

IN recent days Europe has been suffering from a spell of dreadful weather with torrential rain across the continent and even some snow in England. The weather has had a very damaging effect on the Grand Prix teams which had been hoping to get some serious testing done before the start of the European F1 season at Imola next week. As usual the teams did not waste time getting into action after the Argentine Grand Prix, with Ferrari being the first to run - as usual.

The team's test driver Luca Badoer began running at the team's test track at Fiorano on Tuesday, and he completed a total of 100 laps with a spare F300, concentrating on chassis and engine development work. On Wednesday Badoer handed over the car to Eddie Irvine who concentrated on tire development work and managed to establish a new F300 lap record at the track after 68 laps of running. On the Thursday activities switched to the Mugello circuit near Florence where Irvine did 80 laps despite some electrical problems as he continued his tire development work and tried out the latest exhaust systems for the car. On the same day Michael Schumacher was in action at Fiorano where he did 113 laps and was able to beat Irvine's best time. Rain at the end of the week, however, forced the team to stop work although Schumacher is confident that the Ferrari will be more competitive than ever at Imola.

Williams decided to leave its rivals behind and went to test at Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain, in the hope that the weather would be better than tracks further north. The team refused to release any details of the testing but there is no doubt that it centered on Goodyear tire development and on fine-tuning of the FW20 chassis, which has not shown very well in race trim so far this season.

Sauber and Prost chose to test at Magny-Cours but the two days of running were very badly disrupted by bad weather. The test began on Thursday with Trulli trying out the latest new Prost chassis and an evolution of the Peugeot engine, designated the EV3, which will appear for the first time in qualifying for the Spanish GP, in Barcelona, in mid-May. The Italian was also trying new Bridgestone tires but the rain meant that little could be achieved. It was a similar story the following day when Olivier Panis took over. The team had hoped to be able to run both drivers simultaneously at the Magny-Cours test but Panis's crash in the warm-up in Brazil means that the team cannot have two test cars until after the San Marino GP.

Sauber ran a single C17 chassis for Johnny Herbert, Jean Alesi having a few days off. The car ran reliably but for a few clutch problems but the weather meant that work was restricted.

Up at Silverstone McLaren, Benetton, Jordan, Arrows and Tyrrell were all in action with David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen setting the pace as expected, despite snow on the first day of the test and pouring rain on the second day. Mika Hakkinen had a brand new chassis to run and set to work testing some new development parts, while Coulthard joined the Finn on the second day of the test, using one of the cars which had been flown back from South America. Coulthard set the fastest lap of the test.

Benetton had one car for Giancarlo Fisichella to use to test revised suspension geometry and tires but the Italian managed to do only eight laps in the course of the three days because of the dreadful conditions.

Jordan ran for three days with Ralf Schumacher doing only 19 laps during the first day. Damon Hill took over on the second day of the test and did back-to-back testing with two chassis, completing 50 laps before handing over to test driver Pedro de la Rosa on the final day of the test. The Spaniard completed 15 laps of the track. The team continued testing over the weekend with Schumacher doing a series of practice starts to try to overcome problems he has had so far this year.

Arrows was able to get some serious work done despite the bad weather with Mika Salo running for 34 laps on Thursday and both the Finn and Pedro Diniz in action on Friday. The pair completed around 60 laps of the track evaluating engines and trying out the latest versions of the TWR V10.

Tyrrell ran on the final day of the Silverstone test with Ricardo Rosset completing 17 laps while Stewart did not test at all, having to cancel its plans to run at Silverstone.

Minardi was also unable to do any testing but concentrated its efforts on repairing the damage done in South America, building up a new chassis and windtunnel testing.

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