Minardi Kick Off Vallelunga Test

The Minardi Formula One team kicked off today a three-day testing programme at the Vallelunga circuit in Italy, where the Italian squad will evaluate young talents.

Minardi Kick Off Vallelunga Test

The Minardi Formula One team kicked off today a three-day testing programme at the Vallelunga circuit in Italy, where the Italian squad will evaluate young talents.

Today it was the turn of Argentina's Jose Maria Lopez and Italian Fabrizio del Monte to carry out the testing duties. Lopez, who had made his Formula One debut with the Renault team last week in Spain, was clearly the fastest of the two, setting a best time of 1:11.782 after 61 laps.

"I must confess that early this morning it was very cold and we found it hard working in such difficult conditions â€" even more because I had never run on a damp track in the rain before," said Lopez. "All things considered, I think we did a good job.

"As the day went on, I became more confident, helped a lot by the engineers, who assisted me and helped me to improve the car. I'd like to thank all the staff at Minardi because they made me feel at ease, which allowed me to work in a good frame of mind and with the right level of concentration."

Del Monte, runner-up in this year's Euro F3000 championship, covered 22 laps of the Italian track with a best time of 1:15.120. It was his first outing in a Formula One car.

"To me, this was a wonderful day because I was able to drive a Formula One car for the very first time," said the Italian. "We were not helped by the weather, but towards the end of the day, as soon as the track had begun to dry, I could better feel the sense of braking with the carbon discs and realised how you feel when you drive a car with an 800-horsepower engine.

"I think that everything turned out well today, and I hope there is the opportunity to do some additional laps in the car before this test is over."

Finland's Heikki Kovalainen is scheduled to drive for the Faenza squad tomorrow.

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