Meanwhile on the race tracks

While the Formula 1 world has been getting itself involved in a couple of real pot-boiler stories: with the Nigel Stepney story breaking in Italy and Ralf Schumacher's future getting them talkin in Cologne (and Tokyo), the rest of the F1 circus has been busily building new parts, testing them and hoping that the resulting performance will move them up the F1 pecking order.

Most of the teams were at Silverstone for three days, in a test that was visited by occasional passing rain clouds. Formula 1 tests have many uses and while some teams get down to testing new parts and trying to get more performance, others use the test to show that things are better than their petrformance in races seems to indicate. Thus we had Toyota fastest on the first two days of the test and Ferrari on top on the third day. None of this should be taken too seriously as it is not expected that either will be on pole position when the British Grand Prix comes along, two weeks from now.

At the end of the three days it was Felipe Massa who emerged fastest. That same day he had one off and two mechanical problems. The lap time, however, remained at 1m20.805s. This was almost half a second faster than the nearest challenger. On this occasion this was Nico Rosberg in a Williams-Toyota. The team had heavily revised aerodynamics and from what we hear the team did not bother to pump out the fuel when Nico went for his best time. If this turns out to be the case, Williams may make a better impression in the next few races.

McLaren was obviously not bothering with going for fast times with Fernando Alonso only third fastest, with a time that was a hundredth of a second slower than Rosberg's best. Renault too seemed to have found some extra pace with Nelson Piquet Jr right up there with a 1m21.357s lap. All four of these times were set on Thursday, the final day of the test, and eclipsed the best Wednesday time of 1m21.420s, which had been set by Toyota's Jarno Trulli. This was better than the laps recorded on the same day by Kimi Raikkonen and Alexander Wurz and all three were quicker than David Coulthard's Thursday best, which ended up as the eighth best time overall, albeit more than a second off Massa's pace.

The top 10 was completed by Wednesday times with Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren) in ninth and Heikki Kovalainen 10th. Tonio Liuzzi was next up in his Toro Rosso-Ferrari, ahead of the Red Bull-Renault of Mark Webber and Timo Glock's BMW Sauber.

Ralf Schumacher was fastest on the first day of testing but his 1m22.794s was only good enough for 14th overall, while Scott Speed was next ahead of Adrian Sutil and Christijan Albers in their revised Spykers. Also recording times were Luca Badoer (Ferrari), Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber) and Kazuki Nakajima - although the last-named had another off in his Williams. Completing the list were Adrian Valles and Giedo Van der Garde, who both appeared for Spyker.

Down at Jerez, the two Honda teams were in action with Jenson Button setting a 1m19.621s on the final day of the test to secure the fastest lap for the factory team, which was trying out some heavily revised suspension parts and aerodynamic solutions which it is hoped will move the team up the grid. The signs were positive with Button eight-tenths of a second faster than Super Aguri's Anthony Davidson.

Christian Klien did most of the testing work, standing in for Button on Wednesday when the Englishman complained of back pains. Super Aguri ran its test driver James Rossiter for the first couple of days.

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