McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa proved to be the fastest man in Friday practices for the Australian Grand Prix, as the team's third driver set a best time of 1:25.376 in the second session. The Spaniard was half a second faster than Red Bull's...
McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa proved to be the fastest man in Friday practices for the Australian Grand Prix, as the team's third driver set a best time of 1:25.376 in the second session. The Spaniard was half a second faster than Red Bull's Vitanonio Liuzzi was in the morning. De la Rosa was followed in the afternoon by teammate Kimi Raikkonen and the Williams of Nick Heidfeld in second and third respectively.
Raikkonen, who did not set a time in the first session, was quickly out for the installation laps and it was Jordan third driver Robert Doornbos first on the time sheet. De la Rosa quickly took over, 1:29.589, and Toyota No.3 Ricardo Zonta slotted into third. Ralf Schumacher put his Toyota second but was immediately eclipsed by Zonta again.
David Coulthard was next to the top, 1:28.867 for the Red Bull and the team's third driver Liuzzi followed into second, with teammate Christian Klien in fifth. The pair of Jordan race drivers, Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan were eighth and ninth, while Ralf posted quickest with a 1:28.850. Raikkonen rounded off the top ten in the first ten minutes.
De la Rosa returned to the top but was immediately demoted by Klien's 1:28.523, a tenth quicker. It was short lived as Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella clocked 1:28.425 but he was just as quickly toppled by teammate Fernando Alonso's 1:27.940. BAR's Jenson Button took third and Jarno Trulli made it three Toyotas in the top ten with ninth.
Juan Pablo Montoya hurled his McLaren to the top of the times, 1:27.752, while Jacques Villeneuve was the first Sauber out, one place behind BAR's Takuma Sato in 14th. Michael Schumacher put his Ferrari 10th on his first flyer and Alonso eclipsed Montoya with a 1:27.587. Liuzzi was the first casualty of the weekend when he spun the Red Bull into the gravel at turn one.
Mark Webber's Williams arrived in sixth fastest and Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari took fourth on his first effort. The times were rapidly changing; de la Rosa took third, Zonta moved back up the order to sixth and the second Sauber of Felipe Massa clocked eighth. De la Rosa improved to the top slot, 1:27.262, with Coulthard just a couple of tenths astray.
Massa climbed to fourth, with Montoya right behind, and Nick Heidfeld's Williams slotted into seventh. Further down the field, the Schumacher brothers were arguing over 13th, with Trulli, Sato and Villeneuve behind. The Jordans were at the end of the times and there was still no appearance from Minardi. Klien moved up to eighth after being demoted by the changing order, and Button to third.
Coulthard was next to the top, 1:27.128, but was quickly ousted by Fisichella's 1:27.116. Klien bounced up to fourth fastest and Button improved his time but stayed third. Raikkonen, who had been pottering about way down the times, rattled off a 1:26.692 to go fastest, then had another go for 1:26.311, eight tenths up on Fisichella.
Not to be outdone, Raikkonen's teammate Montoya demoted the Finn by eight hundredths, 1:26.227. Barrichello hauled himself up to 11th after being demoted down the times and Sato did likewise to take 16th. Massa was putting in a good show, improving to third, and Barrichello apparently took heart from his compatriot's effort and followed into fourth.
Michael, who had been anonymously outside the top ten, moved up to one ahead of Barrichello, the Ferraris starting to make their presence felt. Ralf had a brief trip into the gravel but recovered and Alonso made his way back to sixth. Trulli scrambled his way up to ninth, and de la Rosa to eighth, while the top three of Montoya, Raikkonen and Massa remained static.
Heidfeld made a marginal improvement to 14th and Webber had a similar small advance to 15th, both behind the Red Bull of Klien. At the back, Doornbos headed the trio of Jordans, rookies Karthikeyan and Monteiro around a second down on their slightly more experienced teammate. Webber inched up to 13th and Michael ousted Montoya from the top spot with a 1:26.081.
With five minutes to go, Zonta improved to sixth and Karthikeyan moved to within a tenth of Doornbos. De la Rosa belted out a 1:25.376 to go fastest, seven tenths up on Michael. Heidfeld shook off Williams' so far seeming lacklustre efforts to take second fastest, half a second down on de la Rosa. He was swiftly demoted by Raikkonen, who closed the gap to de la Rosa to three tenths as the practice came to a close.
A much more active session than the morning but the times are not necessarily an indicator of performance. "It is very difficult to understand everyone's true pace," said Barrichello. "Tomorrow, we have a qualifying session on low fuel, so it is possible some people were already trying that configuration today."
McLaren was satisfied with the day's results: "Today we went through our planned programme focusing on tyre evaluation and finding the optimum set-up and it's been an encouraging start to the weekend," said team principal Ron Dennis. "The entire team has worked hard to prepare for the first race in 2005 and today was no exception."
Whatever the set-up being run by the different teams, it's fairly close at the top. McLaren and Renault, as many reckoned over the winter, seem to be strong, while Ferrari can never be counted out. Williams seemed a little off the pace overall, as did BAR, although the teams seemed fairly happy with the day.
"The whole day has gone very much to plan and we now have all the information we need to make our tyre choice for tomorrow," said BAR technical director Geoff Willis: "We are quite happy with our performance level and will continue to work on car set-up in the morning."
Heidfeld was optimistic: "It's been a better first day than I had expected after the winter testing. I only had a small electronic issue this morning that slightly delayed my programme and prevented me from completing all the laps that we had planned. In the afternoon everything went according to plan and it was a nice finish to this first day."
Red Bull arguably made the biggest impression, although the impression Liuzzi made in the gravel trap was not a great start. However, up until then Tonio handled himself quite well. Coulthard, as one would expect with his experience, put in a good performance and Klien was never too far behind.
Sauber had mixed fortunes; Massa was notably on the pace of the top six but Villeneuve was up and down the times rather raggedly. Toyota was also a bit sporadic and the Jordans, unsurprisingly, were the backmarkers. So far it looks to be developing into an interesting weekend in Melbourne. Final top eight classification: De la Rosa, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, M. Schumacher, Montoya, Massa, Alonso, Button.