BAR took the fight to Ferrari in Friday's second practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, Jenson Button and team third driver Anthony Davidson taking the top two slots on the time sheet. Button's best was a 1:15.935, two and a half tenths up on Davidson, and Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta was third fastest. BAR's second race driver Takuma Sato was also on the pace until a mechanical problem confined him to the garage for most of the session.
The conditions remained warm and dry, aside from a spot or two of rain late on, with the track temperature in the high thirties. The early activity saw Giancarlo Fisichella the first to set a time, 1:21.176 for the Sauber, Jaguar's Mark Webber and Toyota's Olivier Panis on his heels. But it was Jaguar third driver Bjorn Wirdheim who toppled the Italian with 1:19.610, followed by Toyota counterpart Ricardo Zonta, 1:18.700.
Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso were in the top ten, fifth and seventh respectively for the Sauber and the Renault, and Davidson moved into second quickest. Rubens Barrichello took third while Christian Klien's Jaguar went off track in the middle sector of the circuit. Davidson ousted Zonta from the top with a 1:18.569 and Michael Schumacher posted 15th on his first flyer.
Sato put his BAR third, teammate Jenson Button fifth, and Juan Pablo Montoya was the first Williams in the top ten, seventh. Michael stopped mucking about and set a 1:17.919 to take the top slot, and Sato moved into second with a deficit of just five hundredths. Kimi Raikkonen put his McLaren seventh but was immediately demoted by Montoya and Button improving to sixth and seventh after being shuffled down the order.
In the first 15 minutes only Ralf Schumacher had not set a time, along with the aborted attempt of Klien. David Coulthard was on track but had not set a competitive time after his initial three laps. Davidson demoted Barrichello from third quickest, but was around half a second off Sato's second placed time. Jordan third driver Timo Glock put in a good effort for seventh fastest, within a second of Michael, and Ralf posted sixth when he made it onto the time sheet.
Davidson improved to within two tenths of Sato and next to the top was Massa, a 1:17.906 to beat the Ferrari. The Brazilian was immediately outpaced by Webber; 1:17.290 and over half a second clear of the Sauber. Fisichella improved to sixth and Alonso took over from Webber with a 1:17.209. Seconds later Fernando was off the top as Michael returned with a 1:16.916, three tenths up. Barrichello joined him, just two hundredths down, to take second from the Renault.
Wirdheim was a good seventh, the best of the third drivers half way through the session, and the second Renault of Jarno Trulli moved into fifth. Raikkonen improved to fourth, only three tenths off Michael, and Coulthard managed 10th. The top 11 were within a second of the lead Ferrari at that time, the top six within half a second. Cristiano da Matta shot up to third fastest, a good effort from the Toyota and two tenths off the top. Zonta went even better, 1:16.876 to take the lead by just four hundredths.
Button took over from Zonta with a 1:16.659 for all of a second or two before being demoted by Davidson's 1:16.188, nearly half a second up. Within a short space of time now only the top six were within a second of each other. Michael improved to fourth, Alonso to second and Raikkonen to sixth, while Ralf made the best jump, up from the midfield to take the second slot from Alonso.
Button returned to fastest with a 1:15.935 and it was back to the top 11 being within a second. Barrichello improved to fifth and Trulli to seventh while the two Toyota race drivers hovered on the edge of the top ten. At the back, Minardi was an average 4 seconds off the pace, Jordan a little better with about a two and a half second deficit. Sauber dropped back as the pace at the front heated up, as did Jaguar. Raikkonen stopped his car in the middle sector near the end of the session with an ignition coil problem, the team telling him to turn everything off just in case!
It was a much more lively session, with the fastest time changing frequently. Given BAR's ever improving competitiveness, it's no real surprise to see Button at the top this time, and Davidson putting in his usual strong Friday performance. However, the Ferraris being down in sixth and seventh is no real indicator of what to expect in qualifying tomorrow.
There were a few excursions into the gravel but no real dramas. Despite minor technical glitches at the end Renault looked fairly strong, with both drivers in the top eight, but the rest were hard to judge. Montoya was 12th to Ralf's fourth and Zonta third to da Matta and Panis in 10th and 11th, so there were some uneven performances.
Despite Button's efforts, Michael Schumacher's top time from the first session remained the best of the day, just under three tenths quicker than the BAR in second practice. Qualifying should be interesting. Final top eight classification: Button, Davidson, Zonta, R. Schumacher, Alonso, Barrichello, M. Schumacher, Trulli.