Frentzen tops Jerez test

HEINZ-HARALD FRENTZEN set the fastest time of last week's testing at Jerez, using a Williams-Renault FW18B, although his best lap of 1m21.90s was still somewhat slower than Gerhard Berger's 1m21.27s set with the new Benetton-Renault B197 the previous week.

Frentzen completed 153 laps during his three days of running in Spain, the same distance (420 miles) as Jacques Villeneuve ran in the same car the previous week at Barcelona. The pair are now awaiting the arrival of the new Williams-Renault FW19.

McLaren continued its testing of the new MP4-12 and completed a total of 640 miles when its six days of running finished. Both Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard were pleased with the car which they reckoned had good horsepower from the new Ilmor V10, good traction and a good overall balance. The car was reliable and the team left Jerez confident that with a light-fuel load the MP4-12 would have been as fast as the new Benetton. Coulthard's best time of the week was 1m22.18s while Hakkinen recorded a 1m22.753s.

Jordan continued work with the old 196B, finishing off eight days of running which saw the team complete 930 miles of tests. Ralf Schumacher ran 530 miles with a best of 1m23.01s (set on Thursday January 16) but he was beaten by Fisichella on the final day of the test, the Italian lapping in 1m22.75s after 400 miles of running.

Michael Schumacher finished his week of non-stop Ferrari testing with a best lap of 1m22.86s, having completed a total of 251 laps (nearly 700 miles). Schumacher reported that the Ferrari's handling is pretty similar to the F310. The team suffered four engine failures during the test and Eddie Irvine - who had been scheduled to test from Tuesday to Thursday - never had a chance to run.

The new Stewart team began its testing in the rain on Sunday and in similar conditions on Monday Rubens Barrichello and Jan Magnussen used their Bridgestone wets to record the two quickest times of the day. Each drivers completed a total of 37 laps during the four days, Barrichello setting a best time of 1m23.19s while Magnussen did not try for a time, his best lap being a 1m26.29s.

Slowest of all was World Champion Damon Hill in the new Arrows-Yamaha A18 which completed just 14 laps in three days. Gearbox software problems meant that the team was never able to run the car properly. The TWR engineers headed back England to analyze the data and by the end of last week felt that the problem had been pinpointed. A test was hurriedly organized for Saturday at the Santa Pod drag racing strip with an FIA representative being present. Pedro Diniz had his first chance to drive an A18. The team is due to test today (Monday) at Silverstone.

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