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MAY 4, 1998

McLaren sets the pace in Barcelona

MIKA HAKKINEN and David Coulthard once again dominated when the majority of the Formula 1 teams went testing at Barcelona in preparation for the Spanish Grand Prix this week. The test began on the Tuesday after the San Marino GP and continued for four full days, although there were some unseasonal showers later in the week.

Hakkinen completed a mammoth 230 laps of the track - 675 miles - and set his best time of 1m21.51s in the course of the final day of testing on Friday. Coulthard's best was a 1m22.28s after 210 laps (615 miles) giving McLaren nearly 1300 miles of running in the course of the week. Coulthard's progress was delayed a little on Wednesday when he had an accident at the fast right-hander before the pits, causing considerable bodywork and wing damage to his MP4/13. The team concentrated its efforts on tire testing and the only mechanical trouble was a hydraulic problem for Hakkinen at one point.

Benetton's Alexander Wurz also managed to do a considerable amount of work in the course of his four days of testing, the Austrian completing 224 laps - over 650 miles. Giancarlo Fisichella missed the first day of the test because of a stiff neck resulting from his crash at Imola. He had done only 25 laps on Wednesday morning when he crashed again, going off at the end of Barcelona's main straight and hitting the wall heavily. The chassis was damaged and so Fisichella could do no more testing. He went home to Rome where he had a medical check-up to make sure that he would be fit for the Spanish GP. Wurz's best lap time was a 1m22.55s on Thursday, the third fastest lap of the test while Fisichella did a 1m24.22s in his short run. The speed of the McLarens and Benettons suggests that Bridgestone will be well-placed in the Spanish GP.

The fastest of the Goodyear runners during the test were the two Ferraris. The team started work on Tuesday with test driver Luca Badoer covering 71 laps with a best lap of 1m24.61s. On Wednesday Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine took over and after 96 laps Irvine recorded a best lap of 1m22.51s. Schumacher did a lot more running, completing 158 laps but did not go for quick times and settled for a best of 1m22.83s on Friday.

Jean Alesi was also able to break through the 1m23s barrier in his Sauber Petronas although in the course of his four days of testing Jean completed only 82 laps. His best lap came on Thursday with a 1m22.82s. The team's test driver Jorg Muller did 25 laps on Wednesday before handing over the car to Johnny Herbert who completed the final two and half days of the test, completing 100 laps with a best of 1m23.40s. Muller's best lap was a 1m24.76s.

The Stewart Grand Prix team finally got down to some serious testing work with both Rubens Barrichello and Jan Magnussen in action. The Brazilian ran for three days and completed a much-needed 128 laps of running to record a best lap of 1m23.01s on Friday while Magnussen ran on only Wednesday and Thursday but still managed to complete a confidence-boosting 106 laps. His best lap was a 1m24.66s.

Williams had one car at the test for all four days but the team was clearly not going for lap times. Heinz-Harald Frentzen did the first two days of the test, completing 112 laps to set a best lap of 1m23.91s before handing the car over to JacquesĂŠVilleneuve. The World Champion completed 106 laps with a best of 1m23.41s. The team is working on a new rear suspension package for the FW20 but this is not expected to be run until after the Spanish GP.

The Jordan team had a busy week with two cars running for three days but being driven by four different drivers. The test began with Ralf Schumacher alongside the team's tester Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa. On the second day Schumacher was joined by Damon Hill and then on Friday Hill was joined by Japanese rising star Juichi Wakasaki. Hill completed 132 laps setting fastest time of 1m23.49s, Schumacher did 108 laps with a best of 1m23.80s, while de la Rosa managed 69 laps to record a lap of 1m25.00s and Wakasaki did 44 laps for a 1m25.95s.

Prost Grand Prix had one car available for four days - the team is still suffering from the loss of Olivier Panis's chassis in a crash in Brazil. Panis did the first two days of the test, completing 60 laps with a best of 1m24.05. Trulli took over and did 72 laps during the final two days of the test, recording a best of 1m24.85s.

Tyrrell ran a car for three days with Tora Takagi doing the first and third days and Ricardo Rosset running on the middle day of the test. Takagi completed 94 laps with a best of 1m24.59s while Rosset managed 28 laps with a best of 1m26.03s.

Minardi started work on Wednesday with Shinji Nakano and test driver Laurent Redon and the pair were joined on the second day of running by regular driver Esteban Tuero. The Argentine driver did 25 laps before an engine failure. Nakano completed a total of 102 laps while Redon completed 62.

The only team which was not seen in action at Barcelona was Arrows which decided to stay at Leafield to prepare new parts for the cars for the Spanish GP. The team is hoping to introduce another evolution of the TWR F1 engine in Spain.