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Business as usual for Schumacher

NEWS STORY
18/01/2005

It was business as usual for Michael Schumacher at Barcelona today, as the German took up where he left off last season, totally dominating proceedings.

Despite the threat of having to abandon the Catalan test, as a result of oil seeping to the surface following the re-surfacing of the track over the winter, thereby making the track extremely slippery, Ferrari, Toyota, WilliamsF1 and Red Bull opted to remain at the Spanish track as originally planned.

Although there were plenty of clouds in the sky for much of the day, the sun occasionally popped through, with temperatures reaching 13 degrees C.

Although the track was not as slippery as feared, many drivers complained of the new surface being extremely bumpy, particularly at the end of the main straight, on the entry to turn one, and at the exits to turns three and four.

Nonetheless, Schumacher dominated proceedings. For much of the day he ran the F2004, in standard (2004) configuration, setting the fastest lap of the day in the process. Then he reverted to a 2004 car to 2005-spec, in an attempt to compare the two. He also tackled a programme developing new components and Bridgestone tyres. The German, back in F1 action for the first time since Interlagos, completed 86 laps and finished 1.67s ahead of the next driver, WilliamsF1's Mark Webber.

Schumacher's best time (1:15.461), wasn't far off last year's pole time (1:15.022), however, compared with the fastest time set in 2004 testing (1:13.797, set by Takuma Sato in February), this shows that either the new regulations are working, or the Barcelona track is slower than before.

Webber was joined by Antonio Pizzonia, who remains hopeful of taking the second race seat this year. Both drivers focussed on set-ups, in addition to getting used to the new surface, with the Australian out-pacing his former Jaguar teammate by 0.220s. However, once again, the Brazilian suffered mechanical problems, this time it was a clutch failure. Tomorrow (Wednesday). Nick Heidfeld will join Webber.

"The track has recently been re-surfaced and today marked its first official test session," said WilliamsF1 test team manager, Tim Newton. "The new asphalt was considerably slippery for Mark and Antonio on their initial outings but grip level gradually started to improve with the continual laying of rubber. There are some bumpy parts on the track but we are in discussion with the circuit management regarding these problem areas.

"We won't be able to commence work on tyre testing until we've clocked up some more miles and laid some more rubber on the track. We'll continue in this vein over the next couple of days and hope for some more productive testing as the week progresses."

Jarno Trulli was the quicker of the two Toyota drivers on duty, both he and Ralf Schumacher at the wheel of new TF105s. The Italian, who lost valuable track-time following a ride height problem, which eventualy caused the floor of the car to 'break', completed 48 laps, finishing 2.9s off the pace, while his teammate was the slowest of the day, finishing 4.5s off the pace.

Splitting the two Japanese cars were the Red Bulls of David Coulthard and Vitantonio Liuzzi. The Scot was the quicker of the two, outpacing the Italian hot-shot by over a second.

Sauber and Renault, who were also due to test here, have now headed to Valencia.

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