With the exception of the Arrows team , all the participants of the upcoming San Marino Grand Prix next weekend were taking part in a three day test at the Jerez circuit in Southern Spain from Thursday to Saturday, April 22nd-24th.
The teams experienced perfect weather conditions throughout, with the final day seeing temperatures up to 27 degrees with track temperatures reaching as high as 47 degrees.
Bridgestone brought along three types of tyres to test - a hard, medium and very soft tyre - the latter of which proved too soft for the conditions, most of the drivers setting their best times on the medium tyres which will be available for the next race along with the harder compound.
Williams take the fastest time
The Williams-SuperTec had a good test with the team trying several chassis and aerodynamic changes throughout the test which also included brake and reliability running in preparation for Imola. On the final day Ralf Schumacher ran a quick lap in the cooler morning conditions to set what was to be the fastest time of the week of 1:24.232 secs. Alex Zanardi's quickest lap also set on Saturday morning was 1:24.742 secs, the sixth fastest time of the week. Neither driver had any major problems throughout the test, the team hoping for a good result in Imola.
Coulthard and Hakkinen share one car
David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen shared the same car at Jerez, Coulthard driving the first two days with Hakkinen taking over on Saturday. The previous weekend the team had been testing alone in Barcelona. Once again the reliability of the McLaren proved fragile. Coulthard lost a lot of time the first day following an engine failure and then spent more time in the pits the second time after going off early in the day and then experiencing some hydraulic problems. He did however set the second fastest time of the week at 1:24.355 secs during 63 laps the second day, after managing just 23 laps the first day. Hakkinen set what was to be the seventh fastest time of the week with a 1:24.746 secs during his first laps in the car before track temperatures started to soar. He ran a total of 55 laps for the day.
Wurz and Redon run for Benetton
Giancarlo Fisichella got a week off from the Benetton team as his seat was taken by test driver Laurent Redon in Jerez. Despite an off course excursion with no damage to the car, Wurz set what was to be the third fastest time of the week on Saturday morning with a 1:24.627 secs, running a total of only 124 laps for the three days as the team worked their way through tyre chassis, engine tyre and aerodynamic solutions for the Imola race. Problems with Redon's car saw him run only a handful of laps on Saturday, his best time for the week coming on Friday with a 1:27.27 secs.
Prost work on reliability
The Prost team successfully worked through a long programme of tyre, chassis and engine development for the Imola Grand Prix, Jarno Trulli taking an encouraging fourth fastest time for the week on Saturday morning before blowing up the Peugeot engine in his car. He got back onto the track in the afternoon accompanying Panis who carried out a lot of aerodynamic work on the final day and set a best of 1:25.127 secs.
Schumacher and Irvine for Ferrari
After setting the fastest time of the test on the first day, Michael Schumacher ended up fifth fastest overall for the week with a best time of 1:24.650 secs set in Saturday morning. He lost much of his testing time on Friday when his car suffered an engine failure half way through the day. He made up for it on Saturday with over 80 laps of race testing on Saturday. Eddie Irvine only began testing on Friday and set the twelfth fastest time of the week with a 1:25.685 secs. Schumacher was also trying a new head-up display type helmet in which the gear change lights were displayed on the inside of his visor.
On Saturday, at Fiorano, Luca Badoer shook down two of the F399 destined for the San Marino Grand Prix (chassis 191 and 193.) He did a total of six laps in each car. In wet conditions because of rain, his best time was 1.11:076 secs.
Tough time for BAR
Mika Salo drove the BAR during the first day of the test in case he needs to drive the car in place of the injured Ricardo Zonta in Imola. Thereafter, test driver Patrick Lemarie finished the test for the team ending up with a 16th overall best of 1:27.331 secs. He was stopped only three laps into a race distance test on Saturday when his car suffered an hydraulic failure. Salo's best on the first day was 1:27.177 secs, the Finn delighted with the performance of the car with which he ran 50 laps in total. Jacques Villeneuve had a troubled time with frequent stops for small reliability problems. "We made some progress on reliability and performance improvement, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us," said Villeneuve who ended up tenth fastest for the week with a best time of 1:25.247 secs. A decision as to whether Zonta will drive for the team in Imola is not expected to be made until the last moment.
Jordan have successful test
Although Heinz Harald Frentzen set what was only the 11th fastest overall time of the week, he left Jerez on Saturday lunchtime delighted with his two and half days in te car. "We tried some new aerodynamic and set-up changes and I am very happy with the way the car is performing," said the German. "I never ran a qualifying set-up, so I am happy with the time I set," said Frentzen whose best time came on Saturday morning at 1:25.47 secs, almost identical to a time he had set the previous day on old tyres. Other than a clutch problem the first day, his car ran trouble free, test driver Shinji Nakano taking over on Saturday afternoon to complete 39 laps for a best time of 1:29.105 secs. Damon Hill had no problems throughout the test, but was a disappointing 13th fastest with a best 1:26.272 secs for the week.
Badoer back in Minardi
Luca Badoer was able to drive his Minardi for the first time since his Fiorano accident which left him with a broken hand. He drove the first two days and set a best of 1:28.467 secs, but was still finding his hand injury painful. He is expected to drive in Imola. Marc Gene drove the final two days of the test and set a best of 1:26.290 secs during a 'qualifying' run on Saturday morning.
More engine trouble for Stewart
Although the Stewart team's testing plans were interrupted by more engine trouble, the team were pleased with the progress they made during the test. Rubens Barrichello suffered an identical engine failure on Friday to the one which put him out of the Brazilian GP. "It was a piston problem which we hope to have cured on the later spec engines we have for the next race," revealed Cosworth engineer Nick Hayes. Barrichello had a new spec engine for Saturday and set a best of 1:25.179 secs. Johnny Herbert also lost most of Friday when a routine engine change saw the replacement engine have an electrical problem which took time to sort out. His best time of 1:25.6 secs was set on Friday morning and was sixth quickest for the day. He ended up 15th fastest overall.
Sauber only test two days
Jean Alesi and Pedro Diniz only tested for the first two days of the test, Alesi setting a best of 1:26,52 secs on Friday during a troubled two days with gearbox and other reliability problems. Diniz's car also suffered a selection of different problems the Brazilian running only 14 laps the first day before setting a best on Friday of 1:26.341 secs just ahead of Alesi. "The chassis is not too bad, but we need to improve reliability if we are going to start scoring points," said a frustrated Alesi on Friday evening.