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The last pre-Christmas tests

THE Formula 1 teams did their last tests before Christmas last week at Jerez and Barcelona and it was Stewart Grand Prix's Johnny Herbert who set the pace at the bigger of the two tests in Jerez with a best lap of 1m23.01s after 275 laps (756 miles). Herbert was joined in the course of the test by his new team-mate Eddie Irvine and by the team's test driver Luciano Burti. Burti completed 115 laps with a best of 1m23.60s - the fourth fastest time of the week - while Irvine played himself in slowly with 41 laps over two days and a best lap of 1m26.51s. In total the team completed nearly 1,200 miles of running in the four days. The team will now not reappear until it has become Jaguar Racing in January.

Ferrari sent only one car to Jerez and Rubens Barrichello used it on all four days of the test, completing a 360 laps (990 miles) with a best lap of 1m23.44s on the final day of the test. Barrichello said that he was not going for times and could have gone quicker.

McLaren ran two cars at the test but was present for only two and a half of the four days. Olivier Panis once again concentrated on the development of the 2000-specification Mercedes-Benz V10 engine which was fitted into a development chassis while David Coulthard, who did only two days of running, worked on tire and component testing with an old 1999 engine. This suffered engine troubles and he completed only 86 laps but set a best time of 1m23.46s. Panis completed 94 laps with a best of 1m24.44s. The two men gave the team a total mileage of 495 miles.

Sauber was present with both Mika Salo and Pedro Diniz working with a C18B chassis, fitted with the 1999 Ferrari engine and featuring a new hydraulic differential and a new gearbox. There were problems but Salo was able to cover 110 laps with a best of 1m24.78s while Diniz, who was ill, did only 71 laps with a best of 1m26.46s. The two completed a total of 500 miles between them.

Minardi was busy running Marc Gene and five other drivers in the course of the test. Gene completed 78 laps and set an impressive 1m25.20s while doing brake development work. Max Wilson and Norberto Fontana each ran on two days and set the same times - in the high 1m27s - while newcomers Giorgio Vinella, Fernando Alonso and Peter Sundberg also ran. The changeable track conditions meant that the times were not representative.

British American Racing turned up for all four days with the new BAR-Honda 02 and the machine proved once again to be very reliable with Ricardo Zonta in action for 32 laps on the first day and then Jacques Villeneuve completing 157 laps with a best of 1m25.89s. The team finished the test with around 520 miles covered. The times were not hugely impressive (this is the only 2000-spec car running at the moment) but the team is optimistic for the future.

Williams turned up for three days with Bruno Junqueira and Darren Manning sharing the BMW-engined FW21B chassis. The Brazilian completed 53 laps before being stopped with an oil system problem. He set a best lap of 1m26.78s. Manning completed a total of 60 laps with a best of 1m28.88s. On the final day of the test BMW test driver Jorg Muller took over, lapping at 1m28.17s in just 15 laps as he tried out a new exhaust system and modified engine-mapping.

Up in Barcelona, the Prost and Arrows teams were out trying to beat Jarno Trulli's best time - set on an extra day at the end of last week's test - of 1m21.35s. Prost started work on Wednesday running Nick Heidfeld and Jean Alesi. While Alesi continued to develop the Peugeot A20 engine, completing 87 laps with a best of 1m24.69s, Heidfeld used an older engine for the first two days and then had a try with the new A20 engine. In total he completed 176 laps and set a best time on the final day of the test of 1m23.16s. On Friday the team gave British Formula 3 driver Jenson Button a chance in the older car and he impressed everyone by lapping at 1m24.50s after only 40 laps.

Arrows ran a three-day test for Pedro de la Rosa and Formula Nippon Champion Tom Coronel, the pair concentrating their attention on the development of the gearbox and on the new electronic systems which will be used next year. De la Rosa lapped in 1m23.9s while Coronel's best was a 1m26.3s.

Neither Jordan nor Benetton tested last week but Jordan should be out at Silverstone this week, doing electronic tests on the new gearchange mechanism. The tests will be carried out by Andrew Gilbert-Scott. Benetton is not due to test until January 19 when the new B200 is ready. The car will be presented at the Catalunya National Museum of Art in Barcelona on January 17.

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