OCTOBER 20, 1997

The last major tests of the season

LAST week saw the last big Formula 1 tests before the month-long testing ban which begins on the Monday after the European Grand Prix and continues until December 1. This is expected to be followed by frantic testing in December as teams try to catch up with the work they have been unable to do.

Ferrari wasted no time after the Japanese GP with test driver Nicola Larini in action on the Monday after Suzuka. The Italian completed several hundred kilometers of running before handing over to Michael Schumacher on Wednesday, after the German had recovered from his trip back from Japan. Michael suffered an engine failure after only 30 laps but went on to complete 85 laps the following day testing the controversial electronic differential which Eddie Irvine had used in Japan.

Irvine took over the testing on Friday and Saturday, shaking down the four cars which the team is intending to take to Jerez for the European GP.

Prost Grand Prix was busy at Barcelona with Jarno Trulli and Olivier Panis is action for three days, preparing for 1998 and doing tire tests for Bridgestone. The troublesome Mugen Honda engines continued to give pain with blow-ups on both days of the test. Trulli, incidentally, spent a couple of days at Jerez when the F1 circus was in Japan, lapping the track in a Formula 3 car.

The Arrows team went to Magny-Cours and test driver Jorg Muller spent three days doing Bridgestone development work with wet tires, the track being flooded to simulate different rain levels.

Williams, Benetton, Sauber, Jordan and McLaren were all in action at Silverstone but the weather was dreadful throughout the test and the times were meaningless. Williams ran test driver Jean-Christophe Boullion and Heinz-Harald Frentzen in both 1997 and 1998 cars the pair completing over 200 laps of the track in the course of three days of running. Benetton ran only Gavin, who did a total of 40 laps.

Herbert ran with a new 1998-spec Sauber and with a normal 1997 car, completing 70 laps in total. The English driver was very unimpressed with the handling of the 1998 car but was quite quick in comparison to the others who were running the 1998 models at the same time.

Jordan ran its test driver Riccardo Zonta for two days in the team's 1998-spec car. The Brazilian completed 55 laps. RalfÊSchumacher took over on the third day of the test and completed 40 laps.

McLaren did only a very brief run with Coulthard doing just a handful of laps on the final day of the test.