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Day Three - Liuzzi debuts for Sauber at Jerez 17 Sep 2004

Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) makes his first test in the Sauber C23. Formula One Testing , 14-16 September 2004, Jerez, Spain. World © Moy/Sutton Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) makes his debut in the Sauber C23 Formula One Testing , 14-16 September 2004, Jerez, Spain. World © Moy/Sutton Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) makes his debut in the Sauber C23 Formula One Testing , 14-16 September 2004, Jerez, Spain. World © Moy/Sutton Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) has a seat fitting before his first test with Sauber. Formula One Testing , 14-16 September 2004, Jerez, Spain. World © Moy/Sutton Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) makes his debut in the Sauber C23 Formula One Testing , 14-16 September 2004, Jerez, Spain. World © Moy/Sutton

Reigning Formula 3000 champion Vitantonio Liuzzi got behind the wheel of a Sauber Formula One car for the first time on Thursday, when he tested with the team at Jerez.

Liuzzi covered 60 laps of the Spanish circuit in the C23, recording a fastest time of 1m 18.931s, just a couple of seconds slower than the only other driver present, Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher.

"It was a great day for me and I feel very happy,” said Liuzzi afterwards. “Driving a Formula One car doesn't happen every day. In the morning the track conditions were not the best otherwise I'm sure I could have been quicker, but in the afternoon it improved and we were able to complete our programme.

"I felt really good in the team. It was important for me to do this test, to understand how this team works and to run as many kilometres in a Formula One car as possible."

Liuzzi quickly familiarised himself with car before moving on to set-up work. Such was his rate of progress that in the afternoon he was able to participate in the team’s Bridgestone tyre programme in preparation for next weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

"He coped with the driving and the different set-up possibilities astonishingly soon,” said Sauber’s technical director Willy Rampf. “His work and feedback concerning the car handling were pretty good and useful for the engineers.

“Furthermore, his lap times were quite constant and improved steadily. Overall I have to say that considering that it was just a one-day test he managed this work really well."

At Ferrari, Schumacher continued with tyre testing aimed at the remaining races of the season. At the wheel of the F2004, the German covered a total of 85 laps, with a best time of 1m 16.903s. While Sauber have completed their Jerez programme, Ferrari will continue with Schumacher on Friday.

The world champions were also in action at Mugello, where Luca Badoer was also working on tyres. The official Ferrari test driver completed 104 laps (three of them on the short version of the track), with a best time of 1m 21.566s. Badoer continues at the Italian circuit on Friday.