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Testing across Europe

WITH attention beginning to turn to the 1999 cars the Formula 1 teams went testing at a variety of different locations last week with some teams in action at Monza and Mugello (which has a similar character to Spa) in Italy; at Magny-Cours in France, at Barcelona in Spain and at Silverstone in England.

With a major promotional event being held in Prague during the weekend by McLaren sponsor West, the team decided to do as much work as possible at the start of the week and decided to splits its efforts between simultaneous test sessions at Monza and at Silverstone, beginning on the Tuesday after the Hungarian GP.

At Monza there was one McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13 for David Coulthard while at Silverstone there were two cars available for Mika Hakkinen and test driver Ricardo Zonta.

Coulthard completed over 100 laps at Monza in the course of his two days of running in Italy - despite some rain - and managed to set the fastest lap of the test with a 1m24.263s, outpacing Ferrari and Jordan which were both in action.

At Silverstone Hakkinen ran on Tuesday and Wednesday, completing 78 laps with a best time of 1m25.65s, which was beaten by Williams test driver Juan-Pablo Montoya.

Zonta did a good job to complete 102 laps at Silverstone with a best of 1m26.12s. The third day of the test was given over to another McLaren test driver, Formula 3000 racer Nick Heidfeld, who completed 65 laps on Thursday with a best of 1m25.77s.

Ferrari was at Monza for four days beginning on Tuesday with two long-wheelbase cars for Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine. The German completed around 200 laps in the course of the test, which saw him have a couple of accidents without any serious damage. His best lap was a 1m25.422s but this was way off the pace of the McLaren-Mercedes. Irvine was also kept busy, completing over 200 laps in his car, despite some mechanical troubles. His best lap was a 1m26.110s. Eddie then went to Fiorano on Saturday to shake down the cars which will be used in Belgium.

In the course of the testing a procession of Ferrari and Fiat top brass came to watch the action headed by former Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, current boss Paolo Cantarella and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.

Jordan was also in action at Monza for three days with test driver Pedro de la Rosa completing 44 laps on Tuesday, to set a best time of 1m27.370s. He then handed over the Ralf Schumacher who completed a total of 170 laps on Wednesday and Thursday. He set a best time of 1m26.314s.

Williams ran a three-day test at Silverstone in generally good conditions with test drivers Montoya and Max Wilson doing all the work. Montoya completed 94 laps, doing development work for Mecachrome, with a best time of 1m25.36s - which was a faster time than Hakkinen could manage. The Colombian suffered one or two minor technical problems in the course of the test. On Thursday morning he handed over the car to the team's second test driver Wilson, who did 37 laps with a best of 1m27.34s.

Also at Silverstone were the Arrows and Stewart teams. Arrows completed three days of running with Mika Salo spending the first two doing engine-mapping work. He completed 60 laps with a best of 1m27.66s. He then handed over the car to Pedro Diniz who was given the opportunity to test the latest D-spec Arrows V10 engine. He did only 13 laps but set a best time of 1m26.18s. This was very encouraging but the team has yet to decide whether to risk using the new engine at the Belgian GP.

Stewart Grand Prix appeared on Wednesday and Thursday with Jos Verstappen completing 21 laps on the first day and Rubens Barrichello doing 36 on the second. Verstappen's best time was a 1m28.85s while Barrichello set a 1m26.29s.

The Benetton team travelled to Magny-Cours for a private test, the team refusing to release any details about the running. We understand that this involved some wet weather tire tests for Bridgestone - the circuit having to be hosed down to make it wet - and there is little doubt that work was done in preparation for the 1999 car.

The Prost Grand Prix test team travelled to Barcelona to work on a new aerodynamic package and a modified rear suspension. Olivier Panis drove while Jarno Trulli took a few days off.

Sauber and Minardi were both in action at Mugello, the Ferrari test track in the hills above Florence, and despite some inclement weather were able to do quite a lot of running. Sauber's main aim was to see whether the latest specification Sauber Petronas V10 engine could survive a race distance. To date this has only been used in qualifying. Jean Alesi completed 51 laps on the first day of the test but had to abort a race simulation because of heavy rain. His best lap was a 1m29.76s. Johnny Herbert took over for the second day of the test and also completed 51 laps but an engine problem meant that he could do only 51 laps. His best lap was a 1m31.70s.

Minardi ran only Shinji Nakano, Esteban Tuero having flown off to Argentina to present one of his racing helmets to President Carlos Menem. Nakano tried out the latest developments on the M198 chassis, including a new diffuser, brakes and aerodynamic settings. He completed only nine laps because of the rain on Wednesday but he was able to do 63 laps on Thursday with a best time of 1m31.352s.

The only team not to be seen testing last week was Tyrrell.

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