MARCH 13, 1995

Schumacher fastest in Portugal

World Champion Michael Schumacher set the fastest time in last week's Estoril testing with a best lap of 1m21.29s. This compares to Gerhard Berger's pole position last September of 1m20.608s and suggests that, despite all the hugely expensive regulation changes in the last few months - including the reduction off engine size from 3.5-liters to 3-liter - the F1 engineers have already gained back most of the ground lost.

In the first week of the tests Damon Hill set the fastest time in his new Williams of 1m21.77s; but, despite bad weather at the start of last week, Michael Schumacher was able to lap half a second quicker than Hill in the course of Tuesday's testing.

Early last week both Gerhard Berger and Johnny Herbert had sizeable accidents, Ferrari having to pack up and return to Italy to repair the damage caused by Berger, but Benetton able to repair Herbert's car on the spot. On the final day of the test Jordan-Peugeot driver Eddie Irvine gave everyone a shock when he recorded a best lap of 1m21.64s with his team mate Rubens Barrichello second fastest that day.

Overall, therefore, Schumacher was fastest with Irvine ahead of Hill (1m21.74s) and David Coulthard (1m21.77s). Barrichello was fifth fastest with a 1m22.29s and then came Tyrrell's Mika Salo with a 1m23.10s lap. Berger's best was 1m23.25s; Ukyo Katayama recorded a 1m23.37s and the test was rounded off by Mika Hakkinen (1m23.50s in the recalcitrant McLaren), Johnny Herbert 1m23.78s; Pedro Lamy (Tyrrell) 1m24.06s; Nigel Mansell 1m24.27s and the woefully slow Forti driven by Pedro Diniz which recorded a best of 1m28.72s.

Benetton and McLaren are expected to be back at Estoril this week, Benetton planning to do a lot of reliability work. Technical director Ross Brawn says: "We are still not quite where we wanted to be. We haven't achieved all the reliability that we want, but we are almost there and are happy with the progress made."

Jordan will do two days of testing this week at Silverstone before the cars are packed up and shipped out to Brazil on Friday.