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Testing around Europe

THERE has been testing in recent days at Jerez, Barcelona, Mugello and Magny-Cours. The Jerez test - which was covered in last week's INSIDE F1 - ended on Tuesday with Ricardo Zonta setting the fastest time of the four days for British American Racing. The test was otherwise dominated by the Honda F1 prototype driven by Jos Verstappen.

The Dutchman completed 80 laps in the course of his three day test and was faster than everyone else on all three days, ending the test with a best lap of 1m25.15s. That time was beaten by Zonta on Tuesday - after Honda had gone home. Whether any of the times are significant is difficult to assess at this time of the year as teams can run in whatever configuration they chose and may not be running to the weight limit.

Despite the end result the Jerez test was not easy for BAR, which continues to have reliability problems which the team hopes will all be sorted out before the season begins. The latest Supertec V10 engine was causing trouble at Jerez with vibration apparently causing rear wing failures for Jacques Villeneuve and Benetton's Alexander Wurz. BAR completed around 200 laps (550 miles) of the track in the course of the four days but with two cars this was not as much as had been hoped. The team is now concentrating on reliability work and hopes to do considerably more mileage when it tests again in Kyalami, South Africa, in mid-February.

Benetton also had a disappointing time in Jerez with the three drivers completing only 200 laps. The test began with Alexander Wurz doing two days in the new B199 while test driver Laurent Redon worked with an older B198. The rear-wing problems meant that Wurz completed only 40 laps with a best of 1m28.07s. Giancarlo Fisichella took over for the final two days of the test and was able to get down to 1m25.36s - the third fastest time of the week. Redon did a lot of laps and set a best time of 1m27.21s.

Stewart was in action for three days with two new SF03 chassis for Rubens Barrichello and Johnny Herbert, an indication that the team is very well-advanced in terms of preparation for the season ahead. The pair eventually completed around 125 laps between them, despite engine problems with the new Ford V10. Barrichello recorded a best lap of 1m26.65s with Herbert's best being 1m27.48s. Both drivers reported that the car and the engine were much better than last year.

As the test in Jerez was coming to a close McLaren, Williams, Sauber and Arrows were beginning work in Barcelona. World Champion Mika Hakkinen, fresh from a month of cruising in the Caribbean, gave notice that McLaren is going to be a force to be reckoned with again this year, completing 86 laps in the course of two days of running, recording a best lap of 1m21.74s - the fastest lap of the winter at Barcelona - despite using the old MP4/13 chassis. David Coulthard completed 120 laps with a best of 1m22.17s, the second fastest time of the test.

Williams had both the new FW21 and an old FW20 on hand for the testing and Alex Zanardi ran the new car on the first two days before handing over to Ralf Schumacher. The Italian completed 110 laps in the new car and 55 in an old car, setting a best lap of 1m23.08s in the FW21. Schumacher had electrical problems on the second day and so did only 30 laps in the first two days of the test, but completed 40 laps in the new car and set a best time of 1m22.92s - the third fastest lap of the test. Jean Alesi ran the new Sauber C18 on the first two days of the test, completing 40 laps with a best of 1m23.33s before handing over to Pedro Diniz who completed 42 laps on the final day with a best of 1m24.75s.

Arrows was also in action with both Mika Salo and Pedro de la Rosa. The Finn completed 75 laps in two days with a best of 1m24.18s while the Spaniard stayed on an extra day and ended up with 41 laps to his name, the quickest being a 1m24.14s.

At the end of the week Minardi began running at Mugello and Prost at Magny-Cours. Luca Badoer did 42 laps while Prost did its testing in secret. The AP02 will run again at Magny-Cours this week with Williams expected to attend the same test.

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