In action at Silverstone

ALL the Formula 1 teams were running at Silverstone last week with the weather proving to be relatively rain-free, although sunny spells were interrupted by clouds in the course of the three-day test. The action began on Wednesday and after a few small showers the sun came out and it remained dry for the rest of the test which ended on Friday evening with the two Schumacher brothers setting virtually equal laps times although Ralf was 0.002s faster than his brother Michael.

Ralf, who is rumored to be looking for a new job in 1999, completed around 150 laps of the track (more than 450 miles) in the course of his three days of running and reported that the car was much better thanks to aerodynamic changes made by the team's technical director Gary Anderson. These included new sidepods and barge boards. The team also tried revised versions of the rather disappointing Mugen Honda V10 engine and suspension modifications. A lot of work was concentrated on tire development which everyone seems to agree will be the most important factor at the British GP. It remains to be seen whether Schumacher's time is of any great significance but it can't have done any harm for the team after a miserable first half of the year.

Damon Hill completed 150 laps and set a best time of 1m25.87s although he could have gone quicker and the team's test driver Pedro de la Rosa did 80 laps and set a time of 1m26.16s.

The competitiveness of the Jordan underlined the improvement made in recent weeks by Goodyear. Michael Schumacher tested for only two and half days but managed to complete 150 laps, making up for Ferrari's previous tests at the Northampton track this year which had been spoiled by poor weather. Eddie Irvine ran for three full days but managed to complete only 120 laps with a best of 1m26.17s.

Third fastest of the test was McLaren's David Coulthard who was in action on all three days and completed 140 laps with a best of 1m25.19s. World Championship leader Mika Hakkinen did around the same number of laps and contented himself with a best of 1m25.41s, while test driver Ricardo Zonta did a few laps to give the team pit stop practice to make sure that the problems encountered by Coulthard at the French GP are not repeated.

Fourth and fifth quickest of the test were the Benetton drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz both of whom ran on all three days. Fisichella recorded a 1m25.23s after 140 laps and Wurz's best was 1m25.32s after 100 laps.

While many teams were going for good times, Williams adopted its usual policy of working rather than looking for headlines and so Heinz-Harald Frentzen's 1m25.40s - the sixth fastest time of the week - did not look that impressive. The German completed a total of 120 laps while Jacques Villeneuve did 140 laps for a best time of 1m25.41s.

Arrows had an encouraging test with Mika Salo busy on all three days, completing a total of 90 laps with a best time of 1m26.56s while Pedro Diniz had only a single day of running and had to content himself with 29 laps and a best time of 1m27.53s.

Sauber, on the other hand, did not have a good test with a series of engine failures which restricted the running. Jean Alesi completed only 73 laps before setting his best time of 1m26.64s. Johnny Herbert was able to do 120 laps but his best time was only a 1m26.96s.

Splitting the two Saubers on the timesheets was the Stewart-Ford of Rubens Barrichello but the Brazilian was also having engine troubles which meant that he completed only 45 laps in two and a half days. His best time was a 1m26.67s. Jos Verstappen did two days of running, completing 50 laps and recording a best of 1m27.50s.

Prost Grand Prix was struggling along with only one test car which Olivier Panis and Jarno Trulli had to share. Panis started the test and completed 35 laps, developing tires and trying out a new front suspension, but lost a lot of time with mechanical problems. His best lap was a 1m27.63s on Thursday morning. In the afternoon Trulli took over and by Friday evening had completed 45 laps with a best of 1m27.07s.

Tyrrell ran Ricardo Rosset on all three days of the test, the Brazilian completing 100 laps with a best of 1m28.86s. He was eclipsed, as usual, by Toranosuke Takagi who drove 50 laps in his two days and recorded a best of 1m27.54s.

Minardi ran one car on all three days with Shinji Nakano driving for the first two, completing 95 laps with a best of 1m28.62s. He handed over to Esteban Tuero on Friday, the Argentine driver completing 71 laps with a best of 1m28.84s.

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