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2002 F1 Teams/Drivers

British American Racing
Jacques Villeneuve
Olivier Panis

Ferrari
M. Schumacher
Rubens Barrichello

Jaguar
Eddie Irvine
Pedro de la Rosa

Jordan
Takuma Sato
Giancarlo Fisichella

McLaren
Kimi Raikkonen
David Coulthard

Minardi
Alex Yoong
Mark Webber

Prost
H. H. Frentzen 
Luciano Burti

Renault
Jarno Trulli
Jenson Button

Sauber
Nick Heidfeld
Felipe Massa

Toyota
Mika Salo
Allan McNish

Williams
Ralf Schumacher
Juan Montoya

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F1 Hot News
By Andrew Maitland
January 23, 2003
1


Montoya Tops Times At Dry-Wet Valencia
Juan Pablo Montoya spent his Wednesday working towards the top of the timesheets at a sunny and damp Circuit of Valencia in Spain.

The Colombian, joined on track by Williams testing cohort Marc Gene and the McLaren and Sauber teams, managed a solid 81 laps and a best time a few tenths quicker than Woking rival Kimi Raikkonen.

22-year-old Raikkonen, the McLaren racing Finn, endured mechanical hitches with his development MP4-17D but still managed to outpace his silver test mate Alexander Wurz, on a long program.

Marc Gene, the Spaniard, came next as he continued to clock up miles with BMW's new P83 engine, while the new C22 Sauber of Heinz-Harald Frentzen was fifth fastest.

'We had sunshine in the morning followed by an overcast afternoon and less wind than yesterday,' described Williams test team manager Tim Newton of the conditions at Barcelona.

'The focus of today's test was dominated by tire testing with Michelin alongside a routine testing program of chassis and systems work.

'Juan was driving a FW24 03 and Marc was putting some more useful mileage on the clock of the BMW P83 in a FW24D. A general testing day that accumulated a total mileage of 632km with which we were very pleased.'

Young Englishman, the German F3 champion Gary Paffett, had another turn in the silver McLaren with 35 laps and a time nearly four seconds off the leading pace.

The tight and twisty Valencia track was treated to sunny and ideal conditions in the morning, but after lunch was covered by cloud and heavy rain.

'We were relieved to find better weather conditions in the morning, with none of the heavy gusts of wind that interrupted our program yesterday,' reported Jacky Eeckelaert, Head of Vehicle Engineering at Sauber.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen, the Sauber-returning German, continued his program of aerodynamic testing with 'satisfactory results.'

Jacky says: 'During the lunch hour, the [Petronas badged Ferrari] engine was changed as it had reached its mileage limit. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was then able to resume driving later in the afternoon.'

A Bridgestone tire program was cancelled due to the poor afternoon weather. 'I was overall pleased with the way things went today,' said Frentzen after another day behind the new C22 wheel.

'The car feels good, but we have only just begun to test its full potential.' German Sauber cohort Nick Heidfeld re-takes the driving wheel on Thursday.

Juan Pablo Montoya Williams 1m.10.794s 81
Kimi Räikkönen McLaren 1m.11.111s 42
Alexander Wurz McLaren 1m.11.911s 94
Marc Gene Williams 1m.12.331s 74
Heinz-Harald Frentzen Sauber 1m.12.991s 64
Gary Paffett McLaren 1m.14.491s 35







Schumi Quick, R4 Expires and Jordan Stranded
World champion Michael Schumacher shrugged off his red-faced crash of Tuesday to pound home the quickest time while testing on day two at the Circuit de Catalunya.

As temperatures rose, the sun reigned down and nearby Valencia rain stayed away, Ferrari fielded a team of three F2002 cars and drivers as Bridgestone tire and electronics testing predominated.

33-year-old Schumacher, the five times champion and at the wheel of his fifteen race winning scarlet contender, clocked up 89 laps to lead race team-mate Rubens Barrichello by four tenths.

Full-time Maranello tester Luca Badoer had to be content with fourth place, deprived of the Ferrari one-two-three by Jacques Villeneuve who completed a second full day with his new BAR005.

Antonio Pizzonia took to the wheel of the all-new Jaguar R4 for the first time on Wednesday in Barcelona, the Brazilian managing just 46 laps after a mammoth early-day engine failure.

The Milton-Keynes operation have been marred by early teething trouble and reliability glitches with the new-for-2003, 90-degree Cosworth CR-5 unit since it debuted on track.

Leaping Cat team-mate Mark Webber, of Australia, swapped the R4 for the hybrid R3C - fitted with the new engine and gearbox - but was also held back to just 29 laps with mechanical trouble.

Jenson Button, making the most of a difficult early relationship with new race team-mate Jacques Villeneuve, filled a second BAR car with 19 laps but experienced a disrupted day of hydraulics issues.

Observers noted that, oddly for a Formula One garage, partitions have been erected in the BAR pits between Button and Villeneuve's cars.

'We have not spoken yet,' Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion, noted. 'But we are using the same computers.'

The other team testing at Circuit de Catalunya this week is Jordan Grand Prix, with their new, all-black EJ13 and CR-4 Cosworth engines.

On Wednesday, the Silverstone-based team was, for the third day in succession, unable to clock up the miles as yet another technical gremlin struck.

This time, after an engine bay problem on Monday and more trouble on Tuesday, a faulty part was sent back to England to be replaced, but it was delayed at Barcelona Airport.

Gary Anderson, Director of Race and Test Engineering, explains: 'Some of these things shouldn't happen,' he said, 'but testing is like that and you just have to accept it.'

Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1.17.206 89
Rubens Barrichello Ferrari 1.17.605 54
Jacques Villeneuve BAR-Honda 1.18.787 55
Luca Badoer Ferrari 1.18.841 39
Antonio Pizzonia Jaguar 1.19.123 46
Jenson Button BAR-Honda 1.19.145 19
Mark Webber Jaguar 1.19.839 29







TF103 A 'Big Improvement', Says Da Matta
Cristiano Da Matta is reserving his judgment of the all-new TF103 Toyota racer after a damp debut at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

In southern France on Monday, the newly-crowned CART Champion managed just over 100 kilometers with Cologne's second contender: 'I cannot say too much about the test on Monday to be honest,' he said.

'I only did around 20 laps in the new TF103 and in the wet, so the conditions were not optimum to get a full feeling for the car.'

Despite his limited number of wet laps, though, the Brazilian from Belo Horizonte says he can feel an initial 'big improvement' in design and stability over the TF102.

Last year's Toyota racer scored points just twice with drivers Allan McNish and Mika Salo. In 2003, new pilots Da Matta and Olivier Panis are charged with the task of reaping regular points rewards.

A tentative 29-year-old said: 'I can already feel some big improvement from the last car and I hope to get some proper running in Valencia next week.'

The Japanese-owned, German-based outfit will head to the major Valencia tests in Spain next week, fielding two TF103 chassis for the first time for both Olivier Panis and Cristiano.

In the first week of February, Toyota will head back to Circuit de Catalunya just out of Barcelona to continue clocking up the pre-season miles.

Ricardo Zonta, the new Toyota test driver and Brazilian compatriot of Cristiano, also made his Toyota team debut at Paul Ricard this week with the intermediary TF102B.

The 26-year-old, reigning Formula Nissan champion and former BAR and Jordan driver, said:

'My first impressions of driving the TF102B car showed me that there is a lot of potential in this package and a lot of power.'







Villeneuve: More Praise For New BAR Racer
Jacques Villeneuve has continued to praise the work of Geoffrey Willis with the all-new BAR005.

The French-Canadian has steered a series of disappointing Brackley chargers since 1999, but last year the outfit grew tired of languishing and opted for a total managerial and engineering shake-up.

Villeneuve, the 31-year-old former world champion, spent a second consecutive day at the wheel of the Honda-powered 005 at Barcelona yesterday where he reports a more responsive and easier to drive racer.

'Today was trouble-free,' said Villeneuve, who will remain circulating at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday.

He added: 'We had no engine problems, which gave me a chance to play a little with the setup. The car is quite good and it is easier to work with than last year's.

'When I do change the settings the car is more responsive and more predictable in its response. It gives me a logical reaction.'

Observers note that the diminutive Jacques is completing his first back-to-back three day test session since 1999, while others remark that he is eager to put new team-mate Jenson Button in his shade from the word go.

Oddly for Formula One, BAR has erected partitions between Villeneuve and Button's garages, as tension builds between the duo.

'We are not hiding anything from one another and we are using the same computers,' he said of his new shaky relationship with the Englishman, 'but I haven't talked to him.'

Villeneuve kicked off season 2002 by saying he didn't have any expectations.

This time, though, he does - BAR005 must be the vehicle, Jacques hopes, to propel him out of BAR and back into the winner's circle.

He slammed his BAR team this week for planting image-gashing stories in the media, and will live out his latest lucrative three-year contract with the outfit in 2003.

While his comments were optimistic for the competitive chances of Willis' new 005, he continued to criticize the mandatory-for-2003 Head And Neck Safety (HANS) harness.

One of a band to dislike the safety system tethering helmet to shoulders, Villeneuve worries that a rear or side-impact could actually kill a driver wearing HANS.

Not to mention, of course, the fact that drivers must sit lower in the cockpit to accommodate the device. Jacques reported difficulty seeing the exit of corners in his BAR on Tuesday.

'We did manage to change the seating position a little,' Villeneuve said yesterday in Barcelona, 'but I think it's more a matter of just getting used to it.'







Michael And Jacques Approve Of New Rules
Michael Schumacher has embraced the new and confirmed wave of technical revolution for Formula One.

The reigning world champion, whilst getting back to work in Barcelona for his first test since winning the Japanese Grand Prix, said the ratified ban on traction control was 'very reasonable.'

The German and his nineteen grand prix rivals will farewell electronic gizmos including traction and launch control, bi-directional telemetry and automatic gearboxes from the British Grand Prix in July.

Schumacher, 33, said he could 'live with' the new rules despite his unhidden affection for driver aids aimed at helping the Formula One driver behind the wheel.

'In my view, the solutions that were worked out together are very reasonable,' Schumacher said on Wednesday, after getting his F2002 return off to an undistinguished start with a first-lap crash on Tuesday.

Traction control prevents a contender's wheelspin by cutting the engine spark, whilst launch control is a similar tool to ensure a perfect getaway from the start-line without manual use of the clutch.

He added: 'I can live without both of them very well. I'm glad the discussions are over and we all know where we stand.'

Jacques Villeneuve, an old rival of Schumacher's having beaten him to the 1997 world championship, was always a staunch supporter of electronic bans.

The Canadian said the July bans would sort the men from the untried rookies as the significance of the driver is notably returned.

He said: 'Driver aids allow less experienced and not very good drivers to complete a few quick laps. They also allow drivers to make fewer mistakes when they are getting tired in the race.

'So it does make it easier for the worst drivers.'







Mercedes Join BMW In Challenging GPWC
German giant Mercedes-Benz has now joined BMW in abandoning the hostile statement of rejection by the GPWC to proposed Formula One reform.

Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Norbert Haug, and his Munich-based BMW colleagues Gerhard Berger and Dr Mario Theissen, moved to welcome the sport's new electronic bans of traction control and automatic gearboxes.

The GPWC opinion-split comes despite the rogue group's terse and adverse statement of late last week, urging affiliates to reject all changes.

GPWC, comprised of the aforementioned F1 manufacturers and also including Ferrari, Ford and Renault, said last week: 'One needs to keep its fundamental characteristic that [F1] is a showcase for the highest level of technology.'

It urged associated teams to 'use all appropriate mechanics' to reject FIA President Max Mosley's changes - something they did not do at the London meeting of Technical Working Group boffins this week.

The TWG, chaired by FIA delegate Charlie Whiting and attended by Mosley, technical directors and independent electronic specialists, agreed that a July ban on driver aids could be attained.

Proposing an alternate world championship to race in, GPWC further noted that the implementation of Mosley's projected changes were 'not consistent with the contractual framework under which Formula One operates.'

All teams, with the noted exception of McLaren, agreed that the spiraling costs must be controlled to safeguard the future and spice up the track action.

'The new agreements are OK with us, we're working on them already,' Theissen, joint BMW boss, said.

Gerhard Berger, the former Ferrari and McLaren grand prix winner and co-BMW chief, agreed. 'Now everybody has enough time to prepare for the new situation,' he said.

The Paris-based Federation had originally hoped for the bans to fall in time for the 2003 season-opener, in just six weeks.

Berger added: 'I think the races will be more interesting again because the drivers will have more influence.'







Schu Tips McLaren For '03 Title Challenge
Michael Schumacher has tipped British Formula One constructor McLaren for a 2003 title challenge.

Back at the wheel of his title-dominant F2002 for the first time since October, Schumacher told reporters at the Circuit de Catalunya: 'I hope it's going to be a good season.'

The German won eleven races last year, the only non-Maranello inspired victories coming in one-offs by his brother Ralf at Williams and David Coulthard's McLaren on the streets of Monte-Carlo.

McLaren tried their interim MP4-17D development car at the Circuit de Catalunya recently - the package to kick off season 2003 - and recorded faster times than Schumacher's low 1m 17s on Wednesday.

In fact, Monaco winner Coulthard, the Scot, set a new lap record at the Spanish Circuit de Catalunya, having seemingly found strides of development with Michelin and Mercedes.

'Looking at the times set by McLaren,' said Michael in the Barcelona paddock, 'They're looking good.'

McLaren will race the record-setting MP4-17 in Australia, Malaysia and Brazil before unveiling a revolutionary new charger.

The five times world champion, Schumacher, got his 2003 New Year off to a less than distinguished start on Tuesday by smashing his F2002 into the barriers on the very first corner of his very first lap.

But he said 'I am very happy to be back. Driving still gives me a lot of excitement. I love racing and it's fantastic to be back.'

This year, set to kick off with racing at Melbourne's Albert Park in just six weeks, is Schumacher's twelfth full season at the pinnacle of motorsports.

He'll be defending the last three Drivers' and four constructors' world championships for Scuderia Ferrari: 'I was itching to drive, not pushing very hard, but just lost control,' said Michael of his gentle shunt.

After pronouncing a thumbs-up to the re-banning of traction control and automatic gearboxes in July this year, Schumacher enthused about new-for-2003 shoot out qualifying.

The German thinks the one-lap challenge will suit his style.

He said: 'In fact, the changes to the qualifying are rather in my favour, because I'm good at putting in a fast lap right at the beginning.'

Taking the sparkle from Michael Schumacher's eyes, however, was a question about Spa-Francorchamps, the much-loved and highly popular Belgian track just mere miles from Schumacher's home-town of Hurth.

After a spat with the governing FIA over tobacco-advertising, the Spa event has been wiped from the 2003 grand prix schedule: 'I find it sad that Spa has been crossed off the calendar,' he said.

Michael scored his first win, and made his F1 debut, at the great sweeping circuit in the Ardennes forest: 'That circuit brings back a lot of great memories,' he said.







Full Support For F1 Revolution From BMW
Munich manufacturer BMW has come out in support of cost-cutting and action-inspiring changes to the Formula One rule-book.

The FIA, led by British President Max Mosley, dropped a bombshell this time last week by proposing to ban traction and launch control, automatic gearboxes and other driver aids for season 2003.

At a meeting with team bosses in London, the Paris-based authority also revealed its plans to rid the sport of car radios, telemetry, spare cars, qualifying engines while phasing-in standard components such as rear wings.

'In order to reach a sensible solution, the FIA initially made drastic and ambitious demands,' said BMW Motorsport Director Gerhard Berger.

'That was the pre-condition for proper discussions.'

After two meetings of the Technical Working Group, the teams compromised that radios and spare cars should stay and that fancy electronics should be left on the cars until the July British Grand Prix.

Berger, the Austrian and former F1 racer, adds:

'Now the discussions have been held and a sensible compromise has been made. Most of the proposals made by the FIA have been approved upon, however, for a different time frame.

'Now everyone has enough time to get used to the new regulations.'

BMW is a member of the GPWC group; a band of five F1 manufacturers threatening to abandon the sport for its own, more equitable, world championship no later than 2008.

GPWC slammed Mosley's proposed changes last week, urging affiliated teams to use 'all appropriate mechanisms' to reject the cost-cutting changes.

But BMW, despite including its logo in the GPWC release, are now refusing to tow the line as Formula One safeguards privateer teams and its future by cutting costs and improving the show.

Mercedes boss Norbert Haug has now joined BMW in supporting the changes for Formula One.

Dr. Mario Theissen, joint BMW chief, commented: 'The new regulations are acceptable for us; we are already working on them. The new regulations aim at the limitation of costs and at re-increasing the attractiveness of the races.'

Adding that 'BMW supports these aims without reservation,' he says that the FIA put the far-reaching rule changes in a 'practicable time frame'.

However, Theissen notes that the FIA now needs to develop systems to police the bans on traction and launch control, but warmly welcomes the commitment to stay away from implementing standard Electronic Control Units.

He says this ruling gives BMW 'more space for innovation.'

'The monitoring of the elimination of traction control and launch control has to be developed first,' he said.

But Mario adds: 'This matches the ambitions of Formula One, not only in sport terms, but also to mark the top in technical terms.

This decision provides further leeway for BMW, a pioneer in car electronics, to demonstrate our competency in this field.'

BMW will announce its plans for the future by the end of January, which includes options for extending a supply arrangement with WilliamsF1 or setting up its own F1 team.







Michael Will Falter, Sir Jackie Warns
Sir Jackie Stewart has good and bad news for fans of the pinnacle of motorsports, Formula One.

The diminutive, 63-year-old Scot - a former triple world champion and team owner - explains how 'the good news for the rest of the competitors in Formula One is that nobody stays on the pedestal for ever.'

He refers to Michael Schumacher, the five times world champion, who is hoping to mount a fourth consecutive display of dominance with his Maranello-based Scuderia Ferrari.

Michael scored eleven wins this year, helping Ferrari towards its quickest-ever title campaign with an early bath in July.

'Everybody falls off at some time,' Stewart continued to tell The Times as the sport worries about falling audiences and sponsorship.

But the bad news, says Stewart, is that Schumacher looks more nailed to his pedestal of dominance as he stares into season 2003, than ever before.

The German, itching to get back behind the wheel, requested that a third F2002 chassis be ready for an early testing return at the Circuit de Catalunya this week.

And, ever the eager kid at the wheel of his grand prix contender, Michael hit the brakes a little hard on his first flying lap of 2003 and threw his scarlet machine into the barriers.

'Driving still gives me a lot of excitement,' the 33-year-old German said in Spain yesterday. 'I love racing and it's fantastic to be back.'

Stewart continues: 'The bad news is that Michael is still at a young age, he still has a hunger, he even worries about the new season.'

The racing legend, with titles for Tyrrell and having become the first driver to smash the record for number of wins set by Jimmy Clark, adds:

'That is bad news because if he was complacent or over-confident, he would slip on the banana skin that waits for every world champion.

'But, believe me, there are other people who could win in Formula One.'







Jacques: I Should Have Stayed At Home
Last year's BAR racer was an Indycar, not a Formula One car, says outspoken team driver Jacques Villeneuve.

'We had an Indycar instead of a Formula One, it was designed with an Indycar mentality,' said the 31-year-old French Canadian.

'They had the idea that it was 'good enough' type of thing rather than trying to make everything perfect. The car was not up to F1 standard, that is all.'

After four disappointing seasons with the Brackley-based team, though, Jacques is finally looking into 2003 with some confidence.

They have a new engineering structure, a new designer, and the impressive and sleek 005 racer penned by lauded ex-Williams specialist, Geoff Willis.

As far as Jacques is concerned, he is willing to see out the final installation of a lucrative three-year contract - despite intense differences with new team boss David Richards - so long as the car is good.

'I'm confident,' he says. 'Last winter I was saying I don't have any expectations - and that was probably a good thing,' he smiles.

Villeneuve says he should have stayed home in 2002, another uncompetitive year: 'There wasn't anything good about it,' Jacques adds of the season past.

'At least '99 was to be remembered - this year didn't even exist, just empty.'

Jacques is back up and running at the Circuit de Catalunya with testing this week; the first time he's agreed to complete a full three-day BAR development session since the dismal first season.

He has a new English team-mate, Jenson Button, to beat in 2003; but the Canadian makes it clear his respect for the 22-year-old is reserved.

Villeneuve thinks the slowly-fading trend of hiring untried rookies has, along with Michael Schumacher's Ferrari dominance, 'destroyed Formula One.'

'A lot of people just lost interest in F1 because nobody was really racing,' he says. 'For a while it was if you were young, you had a contract, it didn't matter how good or how intelligent you were.'

Button hit grand prix racing as a teenager from British F3: 'It didn't even matter if you had good racecraft or not,' Villeneuve continues.

'Cheap and young and they put you in a race car - it has destroyed Formula One.'

But while his new working relationship with Jenson Button is already strained, JV is furious with BAR boss David Richards - the man who replaced his mentor and manager Craig Pollock - for planting stories in the press.

'I found it very unfair,' says Jacques.

'The pressure that was put in the media by the team was unfair because I never brought the team down in four years when I could easy have. I stuck with them.'

Richards told the media it was 'unwise' for BAR to have such an expensive pilot on their books in a re-building phase. He later urged Jacques, with the help of the press, to head back to CART Racing.

Villeneuve says: 'So to be told that someone inherited a package is not a good enough reason to then blast me.'







Webber Defends R4 Despite Early Problems
Mark Webber has defended the all-new Jaguar R4 in the face of early reliability problems.

Ever since the revised 90-degree CR-5 Cosworth powerplant hit the tarmac, it has struggled to amass the laps with constant technical hitches.

And since the newly-launched R4 got its track debut at Circuit de Catalunya on Tuesday, it too has been struck down with a list of hiccups; not least of which yet another CR-5 explosion with Antonio Pizzonia at the wheel on Wednesday.

Webber, who debuted the R4 in Belgium before taking it through its first steps at Barcelona, said: 'As always, you get a few little snags early on - and R4 will be no different.

'It's just inevitable.'

Defending its sleek lines and back-to-basics concept, though, the 26-year-old Rookie of the Year Australian adds: 'It looks good, certainly. But I'm confident that it's also a sound design.'

R4 is the first to be churned out of the new Bicester wind tunnel with a new and vast Jaguar engineering team. It builds on the philosophy and progress of R3; the 2002-car that languished down the order for much of the year.

Mark says: 'I think the research that's gone into finding out why R3 wasn't as good as it should have been was rigorously carried out, and the lessons have been learned for R4.'

Webber himself, after a season spent learning as an impressive debutant for Minardi in 2002, is trim and taut and highly-regarded as one of the fittest men in pitlane.

'Obviously, a driver's body is under a lot of g-loading when you're driving an F1 car, so it's my job to make sure my body is prepared to cope with those loadings,' he says.

The Queanbeyan-born racer returns home for his Australian Grand Prix in just six weeks; the scene of his fairy-tale debut points last year.

'Then there's the heat, the pressure and the adrenaline to cope with,' Webber continues of the rigors of grand prix racing.

'It's a tricky cocktail - but I'm a great believer in the theory that, the fitter you are physically, the better you'll be able to operate mentally.'







Courtney And Bourdais Target F1
James Courtney and Sebastien Bourdais are two young hopefuls with Formula One stars in their eyes.

Courtney, the 21-year-old Australian, tested for Jaguar Racing last year whilst juggling an impressive season of British Formula Three; narrowly beaten to the title by Robbie Kerr.

He had hoped to hit the International F3000 slopes on European tracks with champions Arden this year, but has instead opted for a drive with the TOMS Toyota Team in Japanese F3.

Meanwhile, Sebastien Bourdais, the young French racer who inherited the F3000 title after Tomas Enge was pinged for cannabis use late in the season, resides pole position to land a seat in the CART series.

He headed to America recently for a test with Newman-Haas; the outfit that propelled champion Cristiano Da Matta to a dominant title and ultimately a Grand Prix debut.

'Overall, the Champcar is a bigger version of the F3000,' said Bourdais. 'It is quite an attractive series and me and team worked very well together.'







Zonta Makes F1 Return At Paul Ricard Tests
Ricardo Zonta recorded first impressions of 'untapped potential' and a 'lot of power' after making his track debut for Toyota this week.

The reigning Formula Nissan champion and veteran of 33 grands prix hit the track with an intermediary TF102B, fitted with new RVX-03 powerplant and seven speed gearbox, at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France.

Although frequent and heavy rain hindered running on his first two days at the driving wheel, the 26-year-old Brazilian got some dry running yesterday afternoon to assess the performance of his new mount.

Zonta, not having driven a Formula One machine since filling-in for an injured Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Jordan) at Montreal two years ago, got to know his new Toyota team with a three-day session.

He completed 98 laps, or nearly 570 kilometers, at the private testing facility in Le Castellet.

'It's a great opportunity for me to be back in a Formula One car with Toyota,' he said at the end of his first week back.

He says: 'My first impressions of driving the TF102B car showed me that there is a lot of potential in this package and a lot of power.

'We have done a lot of work with variable weather this week, in dry, wet and mixed track conditions. I am looking forward to my next test, hopefully in completely dry conditions.'

Also circulating at the Paul Ricard track on Wednesday were the two Renault contenders of Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli, amassing a collective 86 laps.

'As the track was still damp from yesterday's rain, we lost the morning but we managed to cover a decent mileage with both drivers in the afternoon,' said technical director Mike Gascoyne.

'Both Jarno and Fernando conducted a tire program for Michelin with Fernando running a revised spec engine.'

The blue and yellow runners, from Spain and Italy respectively, will hit the circuit with the newly-launched R23 racer later today (Thursday) for its first public outing.

Fernando Alonso E Renault 53 1:35.186
Ricardo Zonta BR Toyota 53 1:35.829
Jarno Trulli I Renault 33 1:36.235 '

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