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Testing update - Schumacher heads title rivals 05 Sep 2003

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari with his race engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Spain, 2 May 2003

The top of the timesheets bore an uncanny resemblance to that of the championship table at Monza on Thursday, as Michael Schumacher edged out title rivals Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen to record the day's best lap. Less than half a second separated the trio, as preparations continued for next weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

At Ferrari, Schumacher and test driver Luca Badoer focussed on endurance work and tyre evaluation, while Rubens Barrichello concentrated on tyre development and set-up. Felipe Massa was also again in action for the team at Fiorano, carrying out further tyre work with Bridgestone.

At McLaren Raikkonen and David Coulthard put in over 130 laps between them as development of the MP4-17D continued, while at Williams, Montoya was again joined by Marc Gene, in place of the resting Ralf Schumacher.

Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli were fourth and sixth fastest respectively, working primarily on set-up, as Renault completed their two-day Monza session. The team also reported positive results from their newly revised Michelin tyres.

"Thanks to our technical partners at Michelin, who have reacted incredibly quickly and effectively over the last few days," said Technical Director Mike Gascoyne. "Our tyre testing also went very well, and using the new shape tyre, we actually noted a small performance advantage over its predecessor."

BAR also completed their work at the Italian circuit after three days of running. Jacques Villeneuve and Takuma Sato were joined at Monza by Anthony Davidson, who took over from Jenson Button. And at Lurcy in France F3000 driver Townsend Bell wrapped up his programme of straight-line aero work with the team.

Commenting on their progress this week, BAR's Technical Director Geoffrey Willis said: "This has been an encouraging test and we have completed over 5000kms with four cars over three days. The main focus has been on an extensive range of new tyre compounds and constructions, both for Monza and for longer-term development. We have found some good compounds for the Monza race and have successfully tested the new low-downforce package, which has given us the performance improvement we predicted."

Toyota trio Cristiano da Matta, Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta were all closely matched in the times as the Japanese squad's three-day stint drew to a close. "I think our TF103 car will be reasonably competitive at the Italian Grand Prix," said Panis, "but it should be noted that every team has been testing here this week, so we will not really know until next weekend where we are in comparison to everyone else."

Jordan had a fairly difficult day. Giancarlo Fisichella managed only 41 laps after a gearbox casing failure in the afternoon, while F3000 champion Bjorn Wirdheim's first day of Formula One testing was blighted by electronic and fuel system glitches, which required the engine to be removed from his car. Nevertheless, the team completed their tyre and damper programmes and Fisichella also found some time to work on race set-up for the Italian Grand Prix.

Sauber's third and final day at Monza ended in unfortunate fashion after a heavy accident for sole runner Nick Heidfeld, as Head of Vehicle Engineering, Jacky Eeckelaert, explained.

"Our test today was clouded by Nick's crash in lap 12 as a result of poor braking stability. The reason for this must still be analysed. Fortunately Nick didn't get injured, but due to his accident we lost nearly all of our newly developed aerodynamic parts and the new car floor was destroyed, too.

"We repaired the car and were able to continue our test in the afternoon. However, because we didn't have sufficient new parts on site we could not use the same configuration as before. We carried on with old components and worked on the Monza downforce level and decided upon the tyres to be used for the next race."

Gianmaria Bruni and Nicolas Kiesa shared the driving duties at Minardi, where the main technical tasks were assessment of aerodynamic components, including a new nose, floor and engine cover, software development, particularly in the area of engine braking, and tyre evaluation. The drivers also used the opportunity to do some initial chassis set-up work ahead of the upcoming Italian Grand Prix.

"Today the team completed its two-day test at Monza with faultless performances from both the PS03 chassis and the drivers," reported Team Principal Paul Stoddart. "We have gained valuable data from this test, not only for the upcoming Italian Grand Prix at Monza, but also for the other remaining races this season. The drivers were able to complete their technical programmes and we now look forward to using the information gained to improve our on-track performance."

Unofficial Thursday times from Monza:

1. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 1:21.291
2. Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams, 1:21.361
3. Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren, 1:21.710
4. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 1:21.737
5. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:21.810
6. Jarno Trulli, Renault, 1:21.952
7. David Coulthard, McLaren, 1:21.956
8. Marc Gene, Williams, 1:22.001
9. Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari, 1:22.043
10. Jacques Villeneuve, BAR, 1:22.092
11. Mark Webber , Jaguar, 1:22.114
12. Alexander Wurz, McLaren, 1:22.250
13. Cristiano da Matta, Toyota, 1:22.281
14. Olivier Panis, Toyota, 1:22.293
15. Ricardo Zonta, Toyota, 1:22.465
16. Takuma Sato , BAR, 1:22.473
17. Anthony Davidson, BAR, 1:22.891
18. Giancarlo Fisichella, Jordan, 1:23.045
19. Nick Heidfeld, Sauber, 1:23.443
20. Bjorn Wirdheim, Jordan, 1:23.633
21. Gianmaria Bruni, Minardi, 1:24.743
22. Nicolas Kiesa, Minardi, 1:25.033