Although Ferrari started an intensive testing programme ahead of the final two races of the 2003 F1 world championship yesterday, Rubens Barrichello will play not part in the work.

While Michael Schumacher was running solo at Jerez in Spain, and Felipe Massa likewise at Monza, Barrichello was missing with the team's consent.

"Actually, I decided to stop off in London for some early Christmas shopping!" he joked, before deciding to come clean about the reason for his absence.

"The truth of the situation is that my back, which I hurt in Hungary, was much better in Monza, but, along with the team, I have taken the decision that it is not worth me risking aggravating it again, so I will sit out this week's testing.

"I am heading home to Brazil to rest and have some more treatment. It is just a precautionary measure - the team has enough drivers to do the test without me, and I don't feel it will affect my prospects for the final two races."