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Testing at Monza

THE Formula 1 teams went into action on Tuesday at Monza, getting ready for the Italian Grand Prix there next weekend and, despite the abuse of the tifosi, it was David Coulthard who emerged fastest of the three day test. The Scotsman lapped the track in 1m23.527s, beating Mika Hakkinen's best time of the year by two-tenths and going faster than the fastest lap recorded in the Italian GP there last year.

McLaren started running on the Tuesday after the Belgian GP with test driver Ricardo Zonta driving two different cars, completing 66 laps in one and 18 in the other. He set a best lap of 1m25.333s, his only adventure being a ride over a curb which damaged a front wing. The following day Coulthard and Hakkinen arrived and in their two days of running the pair completed 311 laps of the track: Coulthard doing 173 of them and Hakkinen 138 while they did set-up and tire development work. Hakkinen's best lap of the test was a 1m24.53s, the third fastest time of the test.

Second quickest was Ferrari's Eddie Irvine, although the Ulsterman was seven-tenths of a second slower than Coulthard. He ran on all three days of the test, completing 114 laps with a best on the final day of 1m24.293s in a long wheelbase car.

Michael Schumacher started his testing on Tuesday at Fiorano where he completed 32 laps but the following morning was in action at Monza. He did a total of 157 laps in his two days of running, concentrating on developing the latest version of the Ferrari V10 engine and set a best lap of 1m24.924s, which was beaten by both Benettons and by Michael's brother RalfÊSchumacher in his Jordan.

The Benetton team ran two cars on all three days of the test with Alexander Wurz and Giancarlo Fisichella in action. The Austrian driver completed a total of 185 laps - more than Coulthard - with a fastest lap of 1m24.734s. Fisichella ran new bodywork on his car - hoping to find more speed on the straights - and completed 150 laps with a best of 1m24.736s.

Jordan Grand Prix did not begin testing until Wednesday when Ralf Schumacher was in action alongside Pedro de la Rosa. The German completed a total of 125 laps during his two days of running, with a best lap of 1m24.77s, while the Spaniard did 40 laps to record a 1m26.557s before handing over to Damon Hill on Thursday. The Belgian GP winner did 73 laps and ended up with a best of 1m25.64s but did not go as fast as he could have done as a result of a late-afternoon spin on the last day of the test.

Williams was in action for just two days with Jacques Villeneuve doing the whole test and Juan-Pablo Montoya and Heinz-Harald Frentzen each having a day in the second car. Villeneuve concentrated on doing Goodyear tire testing and completed a total of 116 laps with a best of 1m24.98s, while Montoya completed 79 laps on his day of running, to record a best of 1m25.564s and Frentzen did 69 laps with a fastest of 1m25.73s.

Prost Grand Prix had two cars at Monza with both Jarno Trulli and Olivier Panis present on all three days of the test. The Italian ended up the faster of the two, setting a best lap of 1m25.19s after completing 103 laps of the circuit as he did development work on the difficult Prost-Peugeot AP01. Panis did 118 laps with a best of 1m25.93s.

Stewart Grand Prix started work on Tuesday with Jos Verstappen driving, while Rubens Barrichello had an X-ray done on his elbow, which he damaged in the first lap accident at Spa. The X-rays revealed that nothing was broken and on Thursday Barrichello set the team's fastest lap of the week, recording a 1m25.24s after 67 laps. Jos Verstappen ran the first two days of the test, completing 100 laps with a best of 1m26.034s.

Sauber was also in action on all three days, beginning the test on Tuesday with one car for Jean Alesi, the Frenchman testing the latest version of the Sauber Petronas V10 engine to see if it can survive a race distance. He completed a total of 177 laps but crashed his car heavily on Wednesday. The car was repaired and his best lap time, set on Thursday, was a 1m25.36s. Johnny Herbert ran on Wednesday and Thursday and completed 104 laps but did no better than a 1m26.81s.

Minardi was also in action at Monza with one car. This was used on Wednesday by Shinji Nakano and was then shared on Thursday by the Japanese driver and his team mate Esteban Tuero. Nakano completed 60 laps in his day and a half of running with a best lap of 1m27.41s while Tuero did only 18 laps on Thursday afternoon and could do no better than a 1m29.73s.

The only teams not to appear at Monza were Tyrrell - which was testing at Silverstone - and Arrows, which stayed at base repairing cars damaged during the cataclysmic Spa weekend.

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