FEBRUARY 17, 1997
The week's testing
JACQUES VILLENEUVE and Heinz-Harald Frentzen gave notice that the Williams-Renault FW19 is going to be the car to beat this year by quickly getting down to the same sort of times as Ferrari and McLaren had managed at Estoril last week.
Ferrari finished its test unable to beat David Coulthard's 1m19.62s in his McLaren from the previous week. MichaelÊSchumacher lapped in 1m19.667s but the Ferrari team headed home much happier thanks to a good six solid days of testing during which the F310Bs had completed three race simulations and a total of 2700 miles of testing. Ferrari now moves to Mugello where it will start a three-day test on Tuesday. The team's third chassis should be ready for a shakedown test on February 27 and a fourth will be completed when the race team is in Australia.
Williams began testing on Saturday and Jacques Villeneuve was quickly fastest, recording a 1m19.67s on his first runs. Frentzen shook down the second FW19 and recorded a 1m19.78s while Jean Alesi recorded a best lap of 1m19.83s for Benetton. On Saturday night it rained and there was more rain on Sunday so better times proved impossible.
Benetton had come away from its Jerez test with Berger beating Alesi's 1m21.17s with a lap of 1m21.01s on Monday. Villeneuve was also lapping quickly on the final day of the test, recording a lap of 1m21.25s. Ralf Schumacher also impressed lapping the new Jordan in 1m21.64s although the young German's test was disrupted with engine problems.
Stewart's Estoril test stopped on Saturday with Magnussen's accident but the team had finished off its Barcelona test in mid-week with Rubens Barrichello getting down to an impressive 1m18.91s in the Stewart-Ford. The time was slower than OlivierÊPanis's lap of 1m18.38s for Ligier set the previous weekend but it was promising.
Arrows continued to struggle at Barcelona with vibration problems with the Yamaha V10 engines causing a series of ancillary failures. Damon Hill's best lap of the week was a 1m20.11s although the team says this was set using a full fuel load and race tires.
Damon Hill was frustrated by the inability to develop the car although he still believes that the car is better than it currently appears to be.
"I think the car is good," he said, "but we have not been able to run because of all these problems and so we cannot develop it. I am putting up with it but I'm not very happy."
Sauber finished its Fiorano test without drama, there being a few electronic problems and was planning to join Ligier at Barcelona this week - although the test may be canceled if the trucks cannot get through. Tyrrell is due at Estoril on Tuesday but may also have trouble getting its transporters through the blockade.