Toyota’s Olivier Panis set a blistering pace in testing at Jerez on Thursday, comfortably outpacing Ferrari, McLaren and Williams teams. Is this a taste of what’s to come this year?

Toyota’s Olivier Panis set a blistering pace in testing at Jerez on Thursday, comfortably outpacing Ferrari, McLaren and Williams teams. Is this a taste of what’s to come this year?

The Frenchman lapped half a second faster than Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer, who was testing both the Scuderia’s F2003-GA and F-2002 cars.

David Coulthard was the quickest McLaren-Mercedes driver and was 0,7 seconds faster than team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. Williams BMW driver Ralf Schumacher was slowest in the 2003-spec FW25.

Panis was encouraged by the pace of the Toyota, which was the first F1 car to be launched this year, but claimed that the Japanese team had a long way to go before it could challenge F1's top teams.

The French veteran also topped the timesheets in last week's Barcelona test, and the Williams team now fears that Toyota could be ahead on pace by the start of the season.

Ralf Schumacher said: "I think Toyota might be the surprise of the year. They did a perfect copy of the 2002 Ferrari and it seems to work."

CARtoday.com reported on Thursday that Frank Williams and technical director Patrick Head was unhappy with the aerodynamics of the new FW25. Ralf said on Thursday that there wasn't enough time between now and the season opening Australian Grand Prix next weekend to sort the problems out.

"We've worked like mad and everyone knows that we have a huge amount to do," Ralf said. "At the moment the new car is as quick as the old one, perhaps a bit faster, but that is not good enough. We will not be also-rans in Australia, but we might as well forget any thoughts of winning the first couple of races. We lack too much to aim for a win."

On the other hand, Panis said Toyota would be held back by its lack of experience in F1. "The TF103 looks pretty good for a new team, but the last thing I want is the team to be distracted by the apparent speed of the car,” he said.

"There is a lot of work to be done and only in Melbourne will we know exactly where we are. It is a good chassis, good engine and the tyres are good - but this year there will be a lot less time to set-up the cars and there is a lot involved in strategy for qualifying and the race. In all these things experience counts," Panis added.

Jerez test session Thursday 27

POS DRIVER CAR-ENGINE TIME LAPS

1 Olivier Panis Toyota 1:19,080 55

2 Luca Badoer Ferrari 1:19.573 26

3 Luca Badoer Ferrari 1:20,041 89 (2002 car)

4 David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1:20,062 68 (2002 car)

5 Kimi Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes 1:20,757 41 (2002 car)

6 Ralf Schumacher Williams-BMW 1:20,811 99.

Original article from Car