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Minardi, Sauber and snow at Imola 21 Feb 2005

Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) Sauber Petronas C24 Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 7-11 February 2005. World © Bumstead/Sutton

Minardi and Sauber were testing at Imola over the weekend, though Sunday’s conditions proved a little too testing - even for a Formula One team - with near-freezing air and track temperatures.

On the Saturday Sauber began their planned three-day programme at the Italian circuit with Felipe Massa and Jacques Villeneuve leading the times, the Brazilian covering 106 laps, the Canadian 63.

"Felipe ran an aerodynamic programme and compared different front wings,” explained Sauber’s chief race engineer Jacky Eeckelaert. “Part of this was the assessment of a newly developed front wing being a result of our wind tunnel work.

“Beside this Felipe tested Michelin tyres for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Jacques worked on further set-up improvements and thereby concentrated on a new traction control software.”

For Minardi, Saturday was their final day of testing prior to the start of the 2005 season in Australia. The main objective was to allow their new race drivers Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher to further acclimatise themselves to Formula One performance. The pair also carried out aerodynamic work and a tyre evaluation programme for Melbourne.

"I'm very happy with the way things have gone today, particularly since this is only my second time in a Minardi since the Misano test,” said Friesacher after 59 laps. “I gained more confidence in the car with each lap. We did a long run this afternoon, aimed at tyre evaluation, and apart from getting some good information, it also gave me a chance to test my fitness, which I'm pleased to say, seems good. We finished the day without any problems, and I have to thank the whole team for their efforts - the atmosphere is fantastic. I can't wait to get to Melbourne."

After completing 47 laps, Albers added: "Overall, I think we have had a good test today, and I feel like I have done a good job. The morning session was particularly positive, as I was able to work with the engineers to develop some aerodynamic approaches the team is looking at. We have not had any technical problems today, and I think this a good sign for our last test before Melbourne."

Summing up Minardi’s day, sporting director and team manager Massimo Rivola concluded: "Both drivers did good, solid jobs today, and there was nothing between them in terms of lap times, even though they were on different programmes. Christijan helped us to gain some important aerodynamic information that will be relevant to the PS05, while Patrick completed a long run in the afternoon on the 2005 Melbourne-specification tyres, and also recorded some interesting results."

On Sunday Sauber intended to continue their programme. However, heavy rain and then snow at Imola meant things did not go quite to plan, with Villeneuve completing only nine laps in the C24 and Massa managing just one installation run.

"Originally we had planned for Felipe to test Michelin tyres for the Imola race in April, and Jacques was supposed to run a race simulation,” explained Eeckelaert. “However, due to the bad weather conditions and in consequence the cold track surface the tyres didn't reach the necessary operation temperature. Under these circumstances testing had been too dangerous and moreover pointless.

"Nonetheless we are happy that we didn't have this situation yesterday already, but that we were able to run a lot of laps to gather valuable data."

Unfortunately for Sauber, the weather had not improved much on Monday morning, forcing them to abandon their final pre-season test. Conditions are likely to be somewhat better at Valencia in Spain, where several of the other teams will carry out their last-minute Melbourne preparations this week.

Unofficial Saturday times from Imola:
1. Felipe Massa, Sauber (Michelin), 1:23.485
2. Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber (Michelin), 1:23.777
3. Patrick Friesacher, Minardi (Bridgestone), 1:25.872
4. Christijan Albers, Minardi (Bridgestone), 1:25.980

No times were issued on Sunday.