DECEMBER 21, 1998
Ralf Schumacher quickest in Barcelona
THE Formula 1 teams completed the final tests of 1998 in Barcelona with Williams driver Ralf Schumacher emerging from the three days of running with the fastest lap time. Ferrari, Benetton, Sauber, Stewart and Minardi chose to miss the test but Schumacher was quicker than both David Coulthard's McLaren and Damon Hill's Jordan.
Schumacher Jr. completed a total of 150 laps with a best of 1m22.27s on the final day of the testing. His Williams team mate Alex Zanardi continued his work and completed 160 laps with a best of 1m23.42s, showing his continued progress as he gets to know the team and gets used to the modern F1 machinery.
Jordan Grand Prix took only one car to the test and for the first two days this was piloted by Damon Hill, the British driver completing 110 laps with a best time of 1m22.47s, the second fastest time of the test. He then handed over to Heinz-Harald Frentzen for the final day of running and the German completed 83 laps with a best of 1m23.65s as he did chassis and tire development.
McLaren had only one car on hand for David Coulthard to use on all three days as he tried out more new components which will be used on the MP4/14. Despite some clutch problems the Scotsman was able to complete 200 laps with a best of 1m22.89s on the final day, which ended up as the third fastest time of the week.
British American Racing turned up in Barcelona with the prototype BAR 01 - the first of the 1999 chassis to be completed. They lost the first day because of electronic problems and on Wednesday there were problems with the rear bodywork flying off the car. On the final day of the test, however, Jacques Villeneuve was able to complete a couple of runs in the car and recorded a time in the low 1m23s. The team reckoned his best lap was a 1m23.09s but other teams recorded a best time of 1m23.26s. Nonetheless it was a competent start for the new team - although the acid test will come when the other 1999 cars begin to appear in the New Year.
Arrows arrived in Barcelona with two cars and in the course of the three days of testing Mika Salo completed over 210 laps of the track as he continued the development of the E-spec Arrows V10 engine. His best lap was a 1m24.30s. He was joined on the second and third days by Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, who completed around 25 laps. De la Rosa spent much of 1998 as Jordan's test driver but is hoping to join either Arrows or Minardi in the weeks ahead. His best lap was a 1m24.66s.
The only other team in action in Barcelona was Prost Grand Prix which had two cars available once again. Olivier Panis was back in action again after his recent surgery and despite alternator problems he was able to complete 110 laps with a best of 1m24.52s at the wheel of a Prost-Peugeot AP01C - a development of the team's development car. Jarno Trulli used the AP01B and completed 100 laps despite an engine failure at one point. His best lap was a 1m24.74s. He left early on the last day of the test and the team's test driver Stephane Sarrazin took over for a couple of laps but failed to record a representative lap time.