Schumacher flies in Barcelona

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER joined Ferrari at the Barcelona testing session on Thursday and topped the times by more than 0.7 seconds as Formula One's big guns came out to play.

But the day was full of stoppages as the session was peppered by seven red flags. Olivier Panis, who ended the session second fastest, was the first man to cause a stoppage when his water pipe failed and caused an engine failure.

Luca Badoer also suffered an engine failure as he continued to work on the team's traction control in preparation for its introduction when the systems become legal at the Barcelona race, and eventually posted sixth fastest time.

Jacques Villeneuve had a spin to bring the red flags out again, and struggled during the day, only managing 12th fastest time.

Soon after, it was Heinz-Harald Frentzen's turn to suffer the second Honda engine failure of the day. The small glitch in proceedings did not hamper his progress, however, and he finished the day third fastest.

The Schumacher brothers caused the next two stoppages as Ralf, who had a poor day to end in 15th place, and Michael both stopped out on track. Both Williams drivers suffered small technical glitches, and team test driver Marc Gene ended the day in 13th.

McLaren had a disappointing day as Mika Hakkinen continued to run nearly one second off the pace, and was beaten in the times by the top Honda runners. His team-mate David Coulthard caused the final stoppage with a spin towards the end and finished the day in 10th place.

Jaguar's Eddie Irvine had a better day than he did on Wednesday, when an engine change left him with limited track time, and he made the most of a reliable Jaguar to run 103 laps and end the session in fifth place.

Enrique Bernoldi worked on electronics which managed to pull his usually uncompetitive Arrows up into seventh as he remained unaffected by rumors of his replacement in the team by Johnny Herbert.

His team-mate Jos Verstappen worked on suspension and aerodynamic developments and finished ninth just behind Jarno Trulli's Jordan.

Oriol Servia spent his second day in the Prost, setting 14th fastest time more than two seconds slower than top man Schumacher. He will be replaced at the wheel on Friday by Stephane Sarrazin.

Benetton had another disappointing day when electrical problems caused troubles with Jenson Button's throttle and he could put in only 12 laps. Despite 62 laps for the his team's test driver Mark Webber the pair finished bottom of the time sheets.

At the other end, world champion Schumacher was happy after his 76 laps working on set-up for the Spanish race on 29th April.

"This is our last chance to run on this track before the race," said Schumacher, who is confident his dominance will continue into the next race in Brazil.

He added: "I cannot see any reason why we should not be as competitive as we were in the first two races of the season."

BARCELONA TEST - THURSDAY, 22 MARCH 2001

POS

DRIVER ENTRANT TIME

1.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER Ferrari 1:20.034

2.

OLIVIER PANIS BAR-Honda 1:20.775

3.

HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN Jordan-Honda 1:20.947

4.

MIKA HAKKINEN McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.967

5.

EDDIE IRVINE Jaguar 1:20.982

6.

LUCA BADOER Ferrari 1:21.039

7.

ENRIQUE BERNOLDI Arrows-Asiatech 1:21.665

8.

JARNO TRULLI Jordan-Honda 1:21.724

9.

JOS VERSTAPPEN Arrows-Asiatech 1:21.860

10.

DAVID COULTHARD McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.861

11.

PEDRO DE LA ROSA Jaguar 1:21.867

12.

JACQUES VILLENEUVE BAR-Honda 1:21.986

13.

MARC GENE Williams-BMW 1:22.068

14.

ORIOL SERVIA Prost-Acer 1:22.153

15.

RALF SCHUMACHER Williams-BMW 1:22.267

16.

MARK WEBBER Benetton-Renault 1:22.315

17.

JENSON BUTTON Benetton-Renault 1:25.359

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