Pedro de la Rosa maintained his top position in the second practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix, his best time in the afternoon of 1:32.834 six tenths quicker than he was in the morning. McLaren's third driver was a tenth and a half up on...
Pedro de la Rosa maintained his top position in the second practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix, his best time in the afternoon of 1:32.834 six tenths quicker than he was in the morning. McLaren's third driver was a tenth and a half up on Toyota counterpart Ricardo Zonta in the second session and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was the fastest of the race drivers in third.
Conditions were not much different from the morning, cool and breezy with the temperatures in the low to mid thirties. Zonta led out, followed by the Minardis of Robert Doornbos and Christijan Albers, Jordan No.3 Nicolas Kiesa and Red Bull third driver Tonio Liuzzi. Narain Karthikeyan's Jordan came next, along with de la Rosa and the Red Bull of Christian Klien.
Zonta was first on the time sheet with a 1:38.322 but was eclipsed by Liuzzi's 1:38.056. Albers and Doornbos posted third and fourth then Klien took third. De la Rosa took over at the top, 1:37.724, and Zonta was just a hundredth behind. Karthikeyan was seventh and Kiesa eighth but Toyota's Jarno took the seventh spot on his first flier. De la Rosa dropped his time to 1:36.530 and Williams' Mark Webber clocked second.
He was quickly demoted by Zonta returning to the position, followed by Liuzzi into third and Trulli fourth. The Sauber of Felipe Massa then took the fourth slot but he in turn was demoted by Antonio Pizzonia's Williams. Zonta took over at the top, 1:36.285, and Liuzzi took back the third place, while Trulli, Klien, Massa and Ralf Schumacher's Toyota argued between themselves. Pizzonia spun due to a suspension failure and had to retire.
Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault joined in 10th and 11th respectively and Webber moved back into second, four hundredths off Zonta. It was short lived as de la Rosa once more went to the top, followed by Raikkonen and the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher into first and second respectively, Raikkonen's best a 1:34.547, over a second up on Michael.
Fisichella improved to sixth and Massa to seventh, while de la Rosa ousted Michael from second and closed the gap to Raikkonen to six tenths. Liuzzi worked his way back up to sixth but then lost the slot to Massa and Rubens Barrichello put his Ferrari 10th on his first effort. Further down the field Jacques Villeneuve's Sauber was 15th, ahead of the BAR of Takuma Sato and the Jordans and Minardis.
Juan Pablo Montoya arrived in third, making it a McLaren one-two-three at the time, then came Michael, Zonta and Barrichello. Webber, Button, Liuzzi and Massa made up the top ten after 20 minutes. Montoya went up one to second and Renault's Fernando Alonso joined in fifth, then Montoya improved again to go qickest, 1:34.541 for just six thousandths up on Raikkonen. Alonso also improved to take fourth.
Zonta took over from Montoya with a 1:33.619, nearly a second up, and Alonso had a minor off-track excursion but kept going. Fisichella clocked eighth after being moved down the order but lost the place to Klien who did likewise. He in turn lost it to Button, while Alonso moved back up to fifth after being demoted, as did Michael to sixth and Massa to eighth.
Zonta improved to 1:32.977 and Alonso slotted into second, 1.3 behind, but then Raikkonen took the place, 1.1 off. Behind them were Montoya, de la Rosa and Fisichella, then Webber Barrichello and Michael. Klien was the last in the top ten, followed by Massa and Button. Coulthard had a moment at turn one but managed to keep it out of the gravel, the first part of the track giving the drivers a few problems.
There were some laps being racked up in the latter stages of the session but only a few changes on the time sheet. Liuzzi improved to seventh from the midfield and de la Rosa went ahead of Montoya. Barrichello climbed to sixth then Coulthard took seventh off Liuzzi, and Webber was demoted to the edge of the top ten. The Saubers, BARs and Toyotas were circulating in the midfield ahead of the Jordans and Minardis.
De la Rosa returned to the top, 1:32.834 for a tenth and a half up on Zonta, while Button improved to sixth. Massa also moved out of the midfield to take ninth and Klien suffered a puncture on the long straight with just a couple of minutes to go. Trulli was a late retiree when his Toyota came to a halt in the middle sector with a possible clutch problem.
There was no change at the top, de la Rosa leading Zonta, and the rest were over a second and more down. With the two third drivers out of the picture, Raikkonen was the fastest race driver in third, with Alonso just a tenth behind. Montoya and Fisichella were fifth and seventh so the battle looks set to be close on Sunday -- barring any anomalies.
"A positive day where we completed our planned programme," said de la Rosa, who, as McLaren will be one of the top four teams, will not be a third driver next year. "We have a clear idea of which Michelin tyre to choose. I like this circuit despite only getting to know it today, and I felt at home already during the installation lap."
Zonta was equally satisfied: "Overall I'm pretty happy with how today went. We were pretty competitive in terms of pace so I hope the rest of the weekend goes well for the race drivers. This morning the track was very similar to how it was last year - very dusty - but it improved as the track started to rubber in."
Raikkonen is keen to get to the race. "A good start to the weekend and let's hope it continues this way," he commented. "Everything has been working well, and the car feels really strong. I can't wait for tomorrow and Sunday where hopefully we will be able to achieve our goal of winning the 2005 Constructors' World Championship."
Barrichello looked reasonable in six but Michael was outside the top ten so Ferrari's fortunes were mixed. Williams was likewise with Webber eighth and Pizzonia back in the midfield and the disparity between Massa and Villeneuve was similar, 10th and 17th respectively. BAR and Red Bull were lurking around the edges of the top ten and Toyota was only in front of the Jordans and Minardis.
An unremarkable Friday apart from the few off-track diversions -- a lot of the drivers were really fighting with the track conditions -- but there were no major incidents. Things look good for an interesting race on Sunday but let's wait and see what happens tomorrow. Final top eight classification: De la Rosa, Zonta, Raikkonen, Alonso, Montoya, Barrichello, Fisichella, Webber Button.