INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Feb. 28, 2000 -- The final major Formula One test before the season opener in Melbourne, Australia, on March 12 took place at Spain's Jerez circuit last week. In all, eight of the 11 teams took part in the three-day test (Feb.
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Feb. 28, 2000 -- The final major Formula One test before the season opener in Melbourne, Australia, on March 12 took place at Spain's Jerez circuit last week. In all, eight of the 11 teams took part in the three-day test (Feb. 23-25) at the track located south of Seville. Arrows-Supertec and Telefonica Minardi-Fondmetal were not at the Jerez test, while Ferrari tested in Italy. This was the first time so many teams had tested their new cars at the same time and, while the teams were running different programs, it gave some indication of what to expect in the first race. Most of the British-based teams will have a final shakedown run at the Silverstone circuit on Feb. 29 and March 1 before shipping their cars to Australia. Jaguar-Cosworth R1 drivers Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert set the fastest times of all those present at Jerez. The team believes it has solved the oiling problems that the engines had been experiencing in an earlier test. After setting the fastest time on opening day, Heinz-Harald Frentzen said he was pleased with the Jordan-Mugen-Honda EJ10. Frentzen ended up fourth quickest overall. He drove on the first two days, while his new teammate Jarno Trulli took over the car for the third day. The team's program included practicing starts and tire testing for Bridgestone. Reigning World Champion Mika Hakkinen drove only on the first day in the West McLaren-Mercedes MP4-15. After that, his teammate David Coulthard took over the car. McLaren's test/reserve driver Olivier Panis drove all three days. Panis worked on engine development while Coulthard carried out tire development for Bridgestone. Pedro Diniz was the sole driver for Red Bull Sauber-Petronas as his teammate Mika Salo was still suffering from a sore thumb sustained in an accident two weeks earlier. Diniz crashed on the first day when the rear wing broke. "The failure of the rear wing was due to a fabrication problem that was not detected despite our quality-control tests," team owner Peter Sauber said. "But we now exactly know what happened after testing the defective parts, and we have taken measures to ensure that such a failure does not occur again." Diniz and Salo have completed more than 3,100 miles (5,000 km) in the new Sauber C19. "I hope we are now well prepared," Diniz said, "and that the car has truly made the good progress that we believe it has for the first Grand Prix of the season, which is always the toughest." Team Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife had the second and third B200 chassis to be completed on hand for Giancarlo Fisichella and Alexander Wurz to shake down. Gearbox and electrical difficulties limited their running on the first two days, but Wurz completed 66 laps on the final day while Fisichella completed 100 laps. Fisichella's run included a full race simulation, the first for the new car, which included a start and pit stops. "It is a good feeling to run a proper race distance before we go to Melbourne," Fisichella said. "I feel like we are ready to go now." Wurz didn't drive on the second day as the team was waiting for new gearbox parts to arrive. "That was a frustrating day," Wurz said, "but it is good that we identified the problem and were able to get on with our program. I am much happier with my setup and now want to get in a race distance at Silverstone before we go to Australia." In all, the Benetton team completed over 3,290 miles (5,300 km) of testing since the new car was launched in mid-January. Rookie Jenson Button had to skip the Jerez test after pulling a muscle in his back during routine fitness training. The damage was not serious, but doctors advised him to rest in order to be fully ready for the first race of the season. Williams-BMW's test driver Bruno Junqueira took over Button's duties and joined Ralf Schumacher at Jerez. Schumacher had a minor oil leak on the first day, which limited his running, and had an engine failure on the second day. "Due to the bad weather at the test in Kyalami we have not progressed as quickly as we would have liked with our chassis development program,' Williams technical director Patrick Head said. "We still have a fair deal of work to achieve before we get to Melbourne." Team Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda brought a single new 02 chassis to Jerez. Ricardo Zonta drove it on the first day, and then Jacques Villeneuve took it over for the final two days. The team concentrated on reliability testing and finding a chassis balance that suited the drivers rather than speed. "We've made some more progress here," Villeneuve said, "and we can certainly say the car is reliable at this stage. The most important thing about the early season races is to get to the finish, and I'm confident that we're in good shape to be there at the end of the first race this year." Steve Farrell, BAR's chief engineer, said: "Our plan was to concentrate on chassis setup work for Ricardo and Jacques on the first and last day of the test with Thursday spent checking reliability. Ricardo had a good run on Wednesday, but then we lost a little time Thursday with a couple of minor technical problems. Even so, Jacques managed 91 laps. "We've amassed nearly 400 km (250 miles) each day of the test, so as far as reliability and track time are concerned, we're in good shape. That, in turn, has given us more of a chance to work on performance, and although we've been making good progress, there is still a little way to go. We'll get there, though." Jean Alesi and Nick Heidfeld shared a Gauloises Prost-Peugeot AP03 with Alesi driving the first two days and Heidfeld on the final day. The two drivers completed a total of 162 laps, and the team hoped it had solved most of the electronics problems the car has been suffering. "The car is more reliable and it is progressing on performance as well," Prost's sporting director John Walton said. "We are particularly pleased with its performance in race trim. However, we still have a lot of work ahead of us to get where we should be." Ferrari, meanwhile, was testing on two fronts in Italy. Rubens Barrichello shook down the second F1-2000 chassis at the Mugello circuit. "We have done some significant laps and we have reached a better understanding of the second F1-2000," Barrichello said. "The laps times were good but there is still room for improvement." Michael Schumacher spent a day at Ferrari's private Fiorano test track where he practiced starts in last year's Ferrari. He was then due to join Barrichello at Mugello. Telefonica Minardi-Fondmetal drivers Marc Gene and Gaston Mazzacane were scheduled to test at Mugello Feb. 28 and 29. The new Arrows-Supertec A21, which has been quick in testing with Jos Verstappen, was due to be officially launched Feb. 28. But the team said it has delayed the unveiling because it has just signed a major sponsor, and that has required the cars to be repainted.
JEREZ TEST, FEB. 23-25 Best Lap Times
1. Eddie Irvine, Jaguar, 1:23.2 2. Johnny Herbert, Jaguar, 1:23.3 3. Giancarlo Fisichella, Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife, 1:23.4 4. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda, 1:23.5 5. Jarno Trulli, Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda, 1:23.7 6. Ralf Schumacher, Williams-BMW, 1:23.8 7. Olivier Panis, West McLaren-Mercedes, 1:23.9 8. David Coulthard, West McLaren-Mercedes, 1:24.0 9. Pedro Diniz, Red Bull Sauber-Petronas, 1:24.0 10. Alexander Wurz, Mild Seven Benetton-Playlife, 1:24.2 11. Bruno Junqueira, Williams-BMW, 1:24.4 12. Nick Heidfeld, Gauloises Prost-Peugeot, 1:24.3 13. Jacques Villeneuve, Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda, 1:24.7 14. Jean Alesi, Gauloises Prost-Peugeot, 1:25.9 15. Ricardo Zonta, Lucky Strike British American Racing-Honda, 1:26.1