Final preseason testing underway

PRESEASON testing began to wind down over the weekend, with less than a week before the cars are shipped to Melbourne for the first GP of the year.

Williams drivers Ralf Schumacher and Antonio Pizzonia were in Portugal at the Estoril circuit Saturday, working on last minute development of the FW24. Schumacher had problems, crashing the BMW-powered machine after 50 laps due to a mechanical failure. The car was damaged enough to not allow the German to complete his planned testing session on Sunday. Pizzonia tested alone Sunday on the Portuguese circuit.

Sauber also suffered some problems over the weekend at Mugello. The team joined World Champion Michael Schumacher on Saturday, who continued development of the F2002. Felipe Massa spun twice, but avoided damaging the C21. Massa's teammate Nick Heidfeld was not as lucky on Sunday. In very wet conditions, the German spun off track and damaged his car, forcing the Swiss team to send it back to Hinwil for repairs. Massa will retake to the Italian circuit Monday for one final day of testing before the season opener. Michael Schumacher will head to Imola to join Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer on Monday, for Ferrari's final preseason test.

Toyota wrapped up their final on-track preparation over the weekend. Alan McNish and Mika Salo tested at a rain soaked Paul Richard circuit. The team will make its Grand Prix debut on March 3rd at the Australian GP.

Some teams will continue testing over the coming week. BAR will conduct another four day test at Paul Richard. Olivier Panis will run the BAR004 on Monday and Tuesday, and teammate Jacques Villeneuve will run Wednesday and Thursday.

Jaguar will head for Silverstone on Tuesday and Wednesday, hoping to squeeze some more speed out of the R3, and Renault will merely shakedown its three R202s one final time before they are off to Melbourne.

The cars are expected to be shipped by Saturday February 23rd, and begin practice in Melbourne on March 1st.

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