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It may only be mid November but the fight for the 2005 World F1 Championships has just started at a pair of empty and cold circuits in Southern Europe. The warmer of the two, the Catalunya Circuit in Spain hosted the majority of the teams for five days with all but Jordan and Minardi in action. New combinations were the order of business with BAR being the only team to have both their existing race drivers in action. Ferrari used test drivers Luca Badoer and the newly recruited (from Williams) Marc Gene’ to try out some of next years aero kit. Gene’ was quickest on the first day but from then on the Ferraris were stuck solidly in midfield which probably means nothing except that they were possibly the only ones running at the correct weight. The BAR trio of Button, Sato and Enrique Bernoldi were surprisingly off the pace in both the “concept” car and last years model with the three of them rounding out the bottom of the lap chart, 2.5 seconds down on Montoya.

Giancarlo Fisichella got reacquainted with some of his old crew at Renault who also had tester Franck Montagny on hand to do most of the Michelin donkey work. Having his first run in a good car was Australia’s Mark Webber who had ex-Jaguar team mate Antonio Pizzonia as back-up. Despite being hampered by drive shaft problems and completing over 200 laps in the test Webber ended up ninth quickest overall just 0.070 seconds slower than Pizzonia who has been testing and racing for Williams for a year and a half. Webber was also quicker on four out of the five days of the test.

At McLaren, new signing, Juan Pablo Montoya got his year off to the best possible start setting the overall best time for the test on his very first day. He was not, however, given any set programme, just told to settle in with one of last years MP4/19Bs and have some fun. “I’m very happy so far, its been great. It’s been an exciting day and the first time I actually went out of the garage in the car was special. There is a lot of work for us to do before Christmas and I can’t wait.” Test drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Alexander Wurz who were doing the real work of the test ended up down in 12th and 15th places respectively.

Jacques Villeneuve had his first run for Sauber and was 3rd fastest on the only day he ran. Overall he was 0.6 seconds down on team mate Felipe Massa who had run on the two previous days. Over at Jagu…er sorry, Red Bull Christian Klien was showing good form and finished 6th quickest overall while potential team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi also showed good pace to finish 10th. Rounding out the runners were the Toyota boys with both race drivers, Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher being joined by tester and occasional racer Ricardo Zonta. The Toyotas were quick with their drivers filling three of the top five positions on the time sheets by the end of the test. Ralf was the quickest of the three and second overall just four tenths down on Montoya’s best. Trulli was fourth overall just another two tenths down

Over at Misano in Italy Minardi were testing on their own giving a lot of young hopefuls a few laps in which to impress both the team management and potential sponsors. Dutchman, Christijan Albers was the quickest of the bunch and the only one to drop under the one minute, eleven second mark. Venezuelan teenager, Pastor Maldonado was also impressive as he made the big jump from Formula Renault, in which he was Italian Champion this year, finishing third fastest behind Austrian Formula 3000 exponent, Patrick Friesacher. About half a second behind Maldonado was the first of the Australian “Will twins”. Will Power set a very creditable 1’11.790 to pip Will Davison (1’11.900) and demolish Israeli driver Chanock Nissany (1’14.000) to be the fastest on their day of the test Also in action was Champ-Car refugee Tiago Montiero who ran on the first day setting a 1’13.240.

Barcelona Times

DRIVER CAR TIME 1;Juan Pablo Montoya McLaren MP4/19B 1'14.202 2;Ralf Schumacher Toyota TF104B 1'14.618 3;Felipe Massa Sauber C23 1'14.661 4;Jarno Trulli Toyota TF104B 1'14.881 5;Ricardo Zonta Toyota TF104B 1'14.935 6;Christian Klien Jaguar R5B 1'15.148 7;Antonio Pizzonia Williams FW26B 1'15.174 8;Jacques Villeneuve Sauber C23 1'15.219 9;Mark Webber Williams FW26 1'15.244 10;Vitantonio Liuzzi Jaguar R5 1'15.351 11;Giancarlo Fisichella Renault R24 1'15.404 12;Pedro de la Rosa McLaren MP4/19B 1'15.419 13;Marc Gene' Ferrari F2004B 1'15.613 14;Luca Badoer Ferrari F2004B 1'15.649 15;Alexander Wurz McLaren MP4/19C 1'15.871 16;Franck Montagny Renault R24 1'16.435 17;Takuma Sato BAR 006 1'16.736 18;Jenson Button BAR 006 1'16.738 19;Enrique Bernoldi BAR 006B 1'16.864

Misano Times

DRIVER CAR TIME 1;Christijan Albers Minardi PS04B 1'10.800 2;Patrick Friesacher Minardi PS04B 1'11.150 3;Pastor Maldonado Minardi PS04B 1'11.330 4;Will Power Minardi PS04B 1'11.790 5;Will Davison Minardi PS04B 1'11.900 6;Tiago Montiero Minardi PS04B 1'13.240 7;Chanock Nissany Minardi PS04B 1'14.000

Sam Snape