Webber Fastest as Rosberg Impresses in Barcelona

Seventeen year old Nico Rosberg, the son of 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg, was the center of attention at Barcelona this afternoon, where six of the teams commenced testing ahead of the 2003 season.

Webber Fastest as Rosberg Impresses in Barcelona

Seventeen year old Nico Rosberg, the son of 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg, was the center of attention at Barcelona this afternoon, where six of the teams commenced testing ahead of the 2003 season.

The young Finn, who made a debut appearance in a Formula One car today, put in a solid performance, running around the Catalan track for 37 laps and setting a best time of 1:21.069 - some three seconds slower than Jaguar Racing's Mark Webber, who set the fastest time of the day.

Rosberg, who was awarded the test drive in a Williams after he won the Formula BMW ADAC Championship, was ecstatic at the end of the day despite a spin. "It was sensational. Now I don't want to drive anything else!" he said, in the presence of a proud-looking father.

"The first laps were like a game with a playstation â€" everything went so fast and seemed so unreal. My father had advised me not to attempt too much and just enjoy the whole experience. I think I managed to do that quite well."

Asked about the physical demands of such a drive, Rosberg, who had clocked up just one season in the 140 bhp Formula BMW before venturing out in the FW24 with almost 900 horsepower, replied: "You can forget about all your neck exercises â€" the forces in an F1 car are just too great. Your arms are put under extreme strain as well."

A BMW spokesman said the company was impressed with the young Finn's pace and handling of the car, stating that: "He did a good job. For a 17 year-old he was in a very good condition and displayed maturity and wisdom in driving the car."

Rosberg was not the only driver to debut in a Formula One car today. BMW-Williams also hosted ETCC BMW driver Dirk Muller, Renault ran Romain Dumas, and McLaren gave Gary Paffett a test drive, as part of his prize for winning the 2002 German F3 championship, although Paffett had previously already tested for McLaren. All three suffered mechanical breakdowns during their runs.

It was business as usual for the racing and testing drivers, though, with most teams concentrating on tyre development. BAR were the sole Bridgestone runners, and test driver Anthony Davidson ran the most laps of the day - 96 in total.

Toyota ran newly signed Olivier Panis, who concentrated on set-up and tyre testing. "I have switched to the 2002 race car for this week's test and it was a very good first day for us," Panis commented at the end of the day.

"We managed 80 laps, which is a reasonable amount, working again on general car set-up and for me to learn this car. We still have many things to do to continue improving, but it has been a positive start to my second test with the team."

Jaguar Racing suffered mixed fortunes, with Mark Webber ending the day fastest - his fastest time set in the morning session - and his teammate Antonio Pizzonia sidelined for the entire day after crashing his car on his first timed lap in the morning.

The team thought they would repair the chassis and Pizzonia would resume testing in the afternoon, but the car was undriveable and Jaguar had to delay further testing for tomorrow, when testing continues at Barcelona.

Today's times:

Pos Driver Team-Engine Tyres Time Laps 1. Webber Jaguar-Cosworth (M) 1:18.192 67 2. Montoya Williams-BMW (M) 1:18.206 57 3. Wurz McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:18.757 31 4. Panis Toyota (M) 1:18.934 80 5. Gene Williams-BMW (M) 1:19.429 32 6. Alonso Renault (M) 1:19.572 86 7. Davidson BAR-Honda (B) 1:20.363 96 8. Rosberg Williams-BMW (M) 1:21.069 37 9. Paffett McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:21.472 13 10. Muller Williams-BMW (M) 1:21.605 45 11. Dumas Renault (M) 1:22.375 48 12. Pizzonia Jaguar (M) 6:36.433 3 All Timing Unofficial

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Barcelona day 1: Webber quickest

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