MARCH 24, 1997

... while Ralf is fastest

DESPITE Fisichella's crash the Benson & Hedges Jordan Peugeot team had a successful Silverstone test with Ralf Schumacher setting the fastest times at the recently speeded-up Northamptonshire circuit.

Schumacher ran on both days of the test - which was disrupted by rain and high winds on the second day - and was able to complete two simulated qualifying sessions and a race distance in addition to testing wet weather set-ups and doing some development of a new differential. In total the German completed 114 laps with a best lap - set on the first day of the test - of 1m21.44s.

Olivier Panis was consistently quick in the Prost-Mugen Honda JS45 and was second quickest on the Monday and fastest on the Tuesday, setting a best lap of 1m22.73s. Panis completed a total of 110 laps in the course of the two days but because of the rain the team was not able to do all the testing that had been planned, although the team is very happy with the way the Bridgestone tires work in wet conditions. The team is hoping that there will be rain in Brazil as the Bridgestone rubber gives a significant advantage.

Fisichella was third fastest, his best lap being a 1m23.41s on Monday when he was working on qualifying runs. He later suffered an engine failure which meant that he was not able to do as much running as had been hoped. He then crashed heavily on Tuesday.

Fourth fastest of the test was Melbourne winner David Coulthard with a lap of 1m23.56s on Monday as he did set-up work for Brazil. He handed over the MP4-12 to Mika Hakkinen on Tuesday and the Finn set a best lap of 1m24.03s. Also testing for McLaren was 19-year-old German Nick Heidfeld, running on both days in an old McLaren-Mercedes MP4/11 as part of McLaren's program for developing young drivers. The test followed similar opportunities the previous week for British drivers Johnny Kane and Darren Turner.

Heidfeld, who finished third in last year's German Formula 3 series, scoring three wins in his Bertram Schafer-run Dallara Opel 395, recorded a best lap at Silverstone of 1m25.33s.

Benetton had a low-key test with Gerhard Berger doing both days with a best lap on Monday of 1m23.60s.

Tyrrell was busy after the disappointment of Melbourne with Mika Salo running the first day of the test and Jos Verstappen taking over for the second, while test driver Toranosuke Takagi ran both days. Fastest of the three was Salo who recorded a lap of 1m25.32s on Monday, Verstappen's best on Tuesday was a 1m26.10s while Takagi also set his best time on the second day with a lap of 1m26.45s.

After the problems in Australia the Stewart Ford team ran a revised rear suspension on its SF1 chassis but after Jan Magnussen had completed only 17 laps this caused a rear wing support failure, which meant that the exhausts had to be revised overnight. This was run on Tuesday by Rubens Barrichello, who recorded a best lap of 1m26.73s in the course of 40 laps of running. Magnussen's best was a 1m28.44s.

Also in action was the Mastercard Lola team which had made modifications to the suspension of the T97/30. Ricardo Rosset was able to record a best lap of 1m30.98s but Vincenzo Sospiri had a run of problems which meant that he could do no better than a 1m33.10s.