McLaren to double-up on testers

McLaren looks set to maximise next year's reduced testing opportunities by signing up Formula 1 job-hunters Alexander Wurz and Ricardo Zonta as a testing 'dream team'

McLaren to double-up on testers

Zonta, who will be replaced by McLaren's current tester Olivier Panis at BAR next year, and Benetton departee Wurz are expected to be announced next week, meaning the Woking team's four-man roster will consist entirely of drivers with 2000 Grand Prix experience.

With testing set to be banned at Silverstone, Magny-Cours, Monza and Barcelona for 28 days before each venue's respective Grand Prix (see separate story), track time at official tests will be at a premium and 'doubling-up' will allow more intensive test programmes to be undertaken. Two test drivers will also allow the team's race drivers, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, to fulfil the intensive PR obligations of main sponsor West without the risk of burn-out.

McLaren team boss Ron Dennis has been impressed by Panis's input into the test programme this season and is looking for the same level of input from Wurz, another driver renowned for his testing feedback.

"We will use experienced drivers to do the test and development work," said Dennis, "but we also want to develop some young guys."

Zonta was favourite to land a Sauber drive next year, but is believed to have opted for the Panis approach of re-building his reputation after a disappointing season with BAR, then aiming for a race return in 2002.

"I'm still in negotiations for next year," He said. "I'd rather race than test, but it depends which is best for my career."

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