Testing update - Schumacher swift on return 03 Oct 2003
Michael Schumacher returned to the cockpit on Thursday as he tested alongside Luca Badoer for Ferrari at Mugello. The world champion topped the times after completing 129 laps of the Italian circuit.
Once again, Ferrari's technical programme centred on tyre testing, electronics and set-up work for the forthcoming Japanese Grand Prix. Badoer covered a total of 81 laps, with his best time less than half a second off Schumacher.
BAR again had Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson in action. They were joined by F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim, who finally got his promised test with the team (see separate story). Sato continued his programme of Bridgestone tyre evaluation, the Japanese driver having fully recovered from his Tuesday accident.
"It's been a very busy three days but we've managed a lot of laps and completed all the preparation work for Suzuka," said Sato. "We tried out a lot of new tyres, and have had a good result from testing them. We also did some longer-term development work. Usually on a test, we suffer with the weather but we have finally had three days of dry sessions.
"I am totally fine after the accident, I did 105 laps the day after with some long runs involved, and I had no problems at all. We didn't have any major reliability problems and have had a very good test. This has been a long season of testing, but very rewarding for me."
Davidson, meanwhile, had a more varied schedule over his three days at Mugello. He too worked on tyres on Tuesday, before switching his focus to completing the mileage on Honda's Suzuka specification engine. On Wednesday he concentrated on an intensive aerodynamic test, while his final day also included a suspension and brake development programme.
"We got a really positive result on everything we tested, and we got through the whole programme and more," said Davidson. "The car was very reliable for the duration of the test. It was a tiring three days but well worth it."
With BAR having completed their work, Ferrari will run solo at Mugello on Friday, with Badoer and Felipe Massa at the wheel. Massa takes over from Schumacher, who completed his scheduled programme a day early.
Elsewhere, Williams driver Ralf Schumacher was again quickest at Jerez, which experienced another day of mixed weather. Schumacher was over a second quicker than the Toyota of Ryan Briscoe as both teams continued preparations for Japan. Schumacher is expected to hand over to former full-time Williams test driver Antonio Pizzonia on Friday.
Unofficial Thursday times from Mugello:
1. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 1:22.001
2. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:22.468
3. Anthony Davidson, BAR, 1:24.031
4. Takuma Sato, BAR, 1:24.070
5. Bjorn Wirdheim, BAR, 1:26.728
Unofficial Thursday times from Jerez:
1. Ralf Schumacher, Williams, 1:20.246
2. Ryan Briscoe, Toyota, 1:21.306
3. Marc Gene, Williams, 1:21.530
See also: Wirdheim gets to sample BAR at Mugello