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Testing intensifies as new cars appear

WITH the new generation of Formula 1 cars now beginning to appear, there has been an increase in testing with a major session last week at the Circuit de Catalunya, in Barcelona. The testing began on Monday with Michael Schumacher running in a 1999-spec Ferrari F399, trying out the new brakes, transmission and electronics which will be used on the new car. This is expected to be launched in the second week of February.

The German driver completed 114 laps of the track over two days and set a best time of 1m21.02s. This was not bettered later in the week, despite the fact that several of the teams in action were using 2000-specification machinery. Schumacher has since flown off to Dubai where he will spend the next few days in training, in preparation for the intensive testing program which will follow the launch of the new car. The only Ferrari test planned before the launch will be aerodynamic mapping work at the Automotive Safety Center (ASC) at Vairano, near Pavia. This will be undertaken by Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer.

Schumacher was joined on the second day of the test by Benetton which had the first B200 chassis available. After Ferrari departed Williams and Jaguar Racing appeared and were joined on Thursday by McLaren. McLaren and Jaguar departed on Friday but Benetton and Williams stayed on over the weekend.

The second best time of the test went to Johnny Herbert who ran on Wednesday and Friday to record a best time of 1m21.87s despite an engine failure. Eddie Irvine ran on Thursday and set a best lap of 1m22.83s but then spun off after a water hose blew off. While his car was being repaired the Ulsterman's engine was put into Herbert's car allowing Johnny to continue running.

David Coulthard arrived on Thursday and ran for only two days. He had two MP4/14s at his disposal but completed only 28 laps. The Scotsman did not run on Friday afternoon because of food poisoning. His best time was a 1m22.09s.

Benetton ran from Tuesday to Saturday with Alexander Wurz being the first to try the new B200, while Giancarlo Fisichella ran in an old B199. The first two days of the test were disrupted by transmission problems and the team completed very few laps but things improved and on Saturday Fisichella completed a 77-lap run in the new car. Wurz's best time was 1m23.00s while Fisichella did a 1m23.11s

Williams arrived on Wednesday, intent on finishing off its driver evaluation test, but the BMW engine problems which had been encountered at Jerez continued with neither Jenson Button nor Bruno Junqueira getting much running. Button did six laps to record a 1m24.12s but was then sidelined with an oil leak and Junqueira did only three until stopped with a similar problem. His best lap was a 1m25.22s. Further problems meant that the pair did no laps until Sunday.

Prost ran a brief test at Magny-Cours with Stephane Sarrazin driving while Arrows continued doing electronic tests at Silverstone with Australian test driver Mark Webber completing 44 laps of the National Circuit in two days.

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