Ralf Schumacher set the pace today [Tuesday] at Jerez, as the BMW WilliamsF1 team began testing at the Spanish circuit by themselves.

Ralf, Marc Gene and Nelson Piquet Jr. were the only three drivers on track, as the Grove based squad picked up from where they left of last week at Valencia, namely conducting preparatory work for 2004.

In total they notched up over 200 laps, Ralf's best a 1 minute 17.453 seconds, while Gene was around a second slower. Piquet Jr. meanwhile got his first taste of Formula One, after racing in the British F3 championship this year.

Sam Michael, WilliamsF1's chief operations engineer, told the team's official website: "We're running a similar programme this week as the one we ran in Valencia, using the FW25B as a platform for preparations of next year's FW26. Ralf used the morning to adjust the set up of the FW25B in readiness for an afternoon of tyre testing with Michelin.

"Meanwhile, test driver Marc Gen? continued to evaluate BMW's new engine and the new gearbox. This went well, with some improvements made since last week's test at Valencia.

"Nelson Piquet joined Ralf and Marc on track today in his inaugural Formula One outing. He spent the initial stages of the session getting used to the car, but unfortunately we had a gearbox problem that delayed the morning programme by an hour and a half. Nelson, however, did a competent job for his first outing.

"Tomorrow, Ralf will continue tyre testing while Marc will complete further essential systems and reliability checks. Nico Rosberg will take over the third car. Nelson will return to the cockpit on Thursday morning, with Nico taking over testing duties in the afternoon."

Leading times (2 December) - Jerez:

1. Ralf Schumacher Williams-BMW 1m 17.453s 68 laps M
2. Marc Gene Williams-BMW 1m 18.326s 73 laps M
3. Nelson Piquet Jr. Williams-BMW 1m 20.453s 65 laps M

M - denotes Michelin tyres

Weather / track conditions: Bright and sunny.



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