JULY 23, 2003
Testing ban rolls into effect
This week marks the beginning of the six week summer testing ban for Formula One teams. The voluntary agreement effectively bans all on-circuit development until after the August 24th Hungarian Grand Prix. Although it cannot stop behind the scenes work in wind tunnels and factories, the ban could not come at a worse time for McLaren and Jaguar.
The ban seems most damaging for McLaren who are being outpaced by Ferrari and Williams at the moment and badly need a jump in performance from the new MP4-18. Although the car topped the time sheets at recent tests in Barcelona, the team admit they are still unsure of its reliability. After weeks of speculation it is now even more unclear when the car will be fit to race, as the team will have to cease on-track evaluations.
The testing ban will also mean that Justin Wilson's first drive of the Jaguar R4 will be on the Friday of the German Grand Prix, a track where the Brit has no F1 experience. This will also be his first time on Michelin tires, as Minardi runs on Bridgestone.
Wilson's replacement at Minardi, Danish F1 new-boy Nicolas Kiesa will test for the team at Mugello this week despite the ban. Minardi team principal Paul Stoddart told Reuters: "We did not sign up for the (voluntary) test ban, but I don't think anyone is going to complain about us giving him a grand prix distance. We haven't done a single test all year so we don't need a holiday."
Stoddart also said he is currently in the process of notifying the other teams of his plans, noting that he would be "very disappointed if there were any objections."