McLaren sets the pace in Valencia testing

McLaren set the pace again Thursday as teams returned to the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia for testing. David Coulthard set the fastest time of the day, at 1:10.977. McLaren test driver Alexander Wurz, who was fastest at the circuit Wednesday, was third on the day.

Sauber drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Nick Heidfeld both fielded new C22 chassis Thursday. Frentzen set the second fastest time of the day, just over a tenth of a second off Coulthard's's pace, despite having a transmission problem.

Sauber's Jacky Eeckelaert explained, "Our plan today was to run both cars with the optimized mechanical and aerodynamic set-ups arrived at yesterday by Nick and Heinz-Harald respectively. The weather conditions were very suitable this morning. Unfortunately, we lost track time when both cars suffered a transmission problem before lunchtime, which we analyzed before sending out the cars again. Both drivers were able to resume their programs in the afternoon."

Ferrari continued electronic and tire development with three F2002 cars, piloted by Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Luca Badoer. The team was able to complete nearly 200 laps between the three drivers.

Giancarlo Fisichella continued testing for Jordan Thursday, as did Oliver Panis and Cristiano Da Matta for Toyota and Jacques Villeneuve and Jenson Button for BAR.

Antonio Pizzonia took over testing duties from Jaguar teammate Mark Webber Thursday. Webber spent Tuesday and Wednesday behind the wheel.

Thursday also marked the return of Jos Verstappen to F1. The Dutchman unfortunately was forced to make his return in a two year old Minardi PS01 on F3000 slicks, as his new teammate Justin Wilson did Wednesday.

Verstappen confirmed that Thursday's test was still useful, however, in reacclimating himself to F1. "It takes a little time to return to a Formula One car after 15 months away and to get back in the rhythm again, but after about 20 laps, I was feeling really comfortable and enjoying myself," said Verstappen."That was the reason for today's test - to get used to F1 again - and that's what we did.I'm very pleased with the lap times, especially considering the car is two years old and we were running on Avon F3000-specification tyres.I have also confirmed that my fitness level is fine, so all in all, I am very pleased with the whole day.Now Justin and I will just wait impatiently to get in the new car."

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