Testing heats up

Testing intensified Wednesday as the teams are running out of testing time before the season starts in Melbourne in just over a week. The Imola, Jerez and Silverstone circuits were all very busy on the day, with development work and final shakedowns for the cars to be run in Australia.

Michael Schumacher again led all drivers in Jerez. The German was behind the wheel of a F2003-GA most of the day, but also completed some laps in a F2002. David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen were second and third fastest in Mclaren machinery, while Olivier Panis and Juan Pablo Montoya also tested for Toyota and Williams.

In Imola, Marc Gene was quickest testing a new braking system for Williams. The system is designed to heat up quickly so to be effective during the one lap qualifying sessions. Jacques Villeneuve was second quickest in the new BAR, while Cristiano da Matta continued to work in the 2002-spec Toyota. Alexander Wurz tested for McLaren while both Minardi Drivers were also in action. Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson shook down the second of the two PS03 chassis, which will now be readied for shipment to Melbourne.

Ralph Firman led the field at Silverstone. The Jordan driver was joined by teammate Giancarlo Fisichella. Mark Webber was second fastest in the Jaguar R4, while Takuma Sato worked on development work for BAR.

Renault tested with three cars at the British circuit. Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso shook down two R23 chassis that will be used in Melbourne, while Allan McNish tested a R23.

Some testing will continue Thursday, while many of the teams will ready for the season opener.

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