Silverstone test session February 20-22

by Mark Gledhill An eventful three days at Silverstone saw five teams and ten drivers test their cars for the last time before the Australian Grand Prix. The test was intended to be a final opportunity to shakedown the cars but teams used ...

by Mark Gledhill

An eventful three days at Silverstone saw five teams and ten drivers test their cars for the last time before the Australian Grand Prix. The test was intended to be a final opportunity to shakedown the cars but teams used the opportunity to push cars to the limit, sort out the small problems that occurred, and to get some valuable pit-stop practice. The weather was varied over the three days as most of Tuesday morning was lost due to thick fog whereas the afternoon was hot and sunny, and Wednesday and Thursday were mostly overcast and cold with occasional sunny patches.

Jordan were present for all the days of the test with Heinz-Harold Frentzen running on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jarno Trulli on Wednesday, and Mario Haberfeld taking over all testing duties on Thursday. The cars looked very strong and Jordans topped the timesheets on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Frentzen setting the fastest time both days and Trulli just 0.8 seconds behind his team-mate on the second day. Frentzen's Tuesday time was set using a qualifying set-up on his 04 race car, but still beat Olivier Panis's testing record set last season in a McLaren. Frentzen continued in the 04 on Wednesday as Trulli drove the 02 and 03 chassis. The team did have problems on Wednesday, as Frentzen's engine cut out at Bridge and the car


Heinz-Harold Frentzen Photo: Mark Gledhill - Motorsport.com

coasted to a halt at Luffield, but otherwise the car ran smoothly and Frentzen looked relaxed in the garage. Haberfeld was more cautious than the other Jordan drivers, initially setting a 1m 36.0s lap before gradually improving to 1m 28.9s after several short runs.

Arrows had two drivers and three chassis at the track over the course of the session. Jos Verstappen ran for all three days, driving the 01 on Tuesday and Wednesday and the 03 on Thursday, whereas Enrique Bernoldi just ran on Wednesday in the 02. The team encountered several problems during the test. On the first day Verstappen was suffering from a sticking throttle which caused him to run wide at Brooklands and interrupted a planned pit-stop sequence. On Wednesday morning Bernoldi ran off the track at Vale and returned slowly to the garage, and also stopped out on the circuit during the afternoon and the car was returned to the pits with the nose covered up, although the Brazilian did manage lap in the low 1m 25s just beforehand. Verstappen's car stopped out on the circuit three times on Thursday, although the Arrows driver did a 1m 25.48s lap just before lunch. During the afternoon the team concentrated on pit-stop practice.


Jos Verstappen Photo: Mark Gledhill - Motorsport.com

Jaguar opted to run just on the Tuesday so that they could prepare for the 6am flight on Thursday to Australia. The team had all three R2 chassis that will be used in Australia and these were driven by Eddie Irvine and Luciano Burti, who completed 42 laps between them. The cars looked strong on the circuit and both drivers set times with one second of Verstappen's time. Irvine's car coasted to a halt at the entrance to the pitlane just before lunch, coasted to a halt at the entrance to the pitlane just before lunch, and mid-way though the afternoon another car suffered gear-selection


Jaguar pit stop simulation Photo: Mark Gledhill - Motorsport.com

problem at Copse. Burti too stopped out on track with a mechanical failure and the car was towed back to the garage. Despite these problems the team spent the last hour of the day practising pit-stops.

McLaren made a surprise visit on Thursday morning, with David Coulthard shaking down two cars for a few slow laps and practising pit-stops, before leaving the circuit at lunchtime.

Benetton ran for all three days of the test although Jenson Button took until 4.30pm to go out on the track for some pit-stop practice on the first


Jenson Button Photo: Mark Gledhill - Motorsport.com

day. Jenson ran 48 laps on Wednesday although due to running a heavy fuel load his fastest time was over 4.5 seconds slower than Frenzten's 'qualifying' lap. Button was joined by Giancarlo Fisichella on Thursday, the Italian lapping initially at 1m 38.7s before gradually getting under the 1m 30s barrier, and then practising some pit-stops. The team did not appear to suffer from any specific problems apart from a general lack of pace.

The teams, particularly Jordan and Benetton, went to great lengths to ensure that the cars were exposed to photographers as little as possible when parked in the garages. This included covering up the cars, setting up barriers to prevent journalists seeing inside the garages, and closing the garage doors when the cars were inside.

Most teams suffered some sort of failure during the three days although none of the problems appeared to be too serious. However it became clear during the session that some teams were clearly ready for the start of the season whereas others were still experiencing minor technical troubles. The pace of the Jordans in qualifying trim was very fast and suggested the yellow cars could be high up the grid in Melbourne, whereas the Benettons lapped relatively slowly and appeared to be reliable, but Arrows lapped quickly and suffered several failures. The first Grand Prix of the season may well see a silver or red car cross the line first, but the battle for the rest of the places could be decided simply by which car gets that far without braking down. With Jordan and Arrows setting very fast times there should be a few surprises on the grid in Melbourne.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Giancarlo Fisichella , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Jos Verstappen , Enrique Bernoldi , David Coulthard , Olivier Panis
Teams McLaren , Benetton , Jordan