Care to take a guess who was at the top of the times for start of the last race weekend of the season? McLaren third driver Pedro de la Rosa clocked 1:33.463 to lead the way in the first Friday practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix, 1.8 ...
Care to take a guess who was at the top of the times for start of the last race weekend of the season? McLaren third driver Pedro de la Rosa clocked 1:33.463 to lead the way in the first Friday practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix, 1.8 seconds ahead of the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello. Toyota No.3 Ricardo Zonta was third fastest and the rest were two seconds and more off de la Rosa's pace.
Track and air temperatures were both in the mid twenties, with misty conditions at the start of the session. Jordan third driver Nicolas Kiesa led out for the installation laps followed, as usual, by McLaren, Red Bull and Toyota counterparts de la Rosa, Tonio Liuzzi and Zonta respectively. The Minardi of Robert Doornbos and Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan and Taigo Montoeiro also appeared.
Christijan Albers' Minardi was next to show, then Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella and Toyota's Ralf Schumacher. Takuma Sato and Jenson Button's BARs followed on, in 555 livery this weekend, along with the Sauber of Felipe Massa and the McLarens of Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen. Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve and Red Bull's David Coulthard were next in line and it was de la Rosa who set the first flier.
The McLaren clocked 1:39.317 to start with and Kiesa slotted in behind. De la Rosa lowered his time to 1:36.973 and Liuzzi took over the second place, then Kiesa took it back. De la Rosa's time dropped a couple of tenths to 1:36.713 and Liuzzi returned to second, while Zonta arrived on the time sheet in third. The McLaren man was still churning out the laps, his next a 1:36.284, and Zonta moved up to second.
Meanwhile, Red Bull's Christian Klien, Renault's Fernando Alonso and Toyota's Jarno Trulli had all completed installation laps. The Williams of Antonio Pizzonia was next to check in on the times, third, then was ousted by Ralf. Sato posted seventh on his first effort, while Ralf and Pizzonia traded the third spot. Monteiro joined in seventh and Mark Webber's Williams in fifth.
Karthikeyan made it 10 on the time sheet and Webber and Monteiro climbed to third and seventh respectively. Karthikeyan moved ahead of Sato for ninth then had another go for eighth ahead of Kiesa. Albers posted 10th on his first flier and the Ferraris of Barrichello and Michael Schumacher were the last out for their installation laps about half way through the session.
Barrichello was the first of the pair to set a time, 11th, and Michael took sixth. Barrichello moved up to ninth, and Doornbos to 12th, then Kiesa took the ninth spot off the Ferrari. Barrichello hurriedly escaped the clutches of the backmarkers and improved to fifth. De la Rosa came back out for a few laps and lowered his top time to 1:35.362, which left Zonta over a second adrift.
Button started with a lowly 15th and Zonta closed the gap to the lead McLaren to three tenths. Montoya arrived in third, nearly a second off teammate de la Rosa, and Zonta closed in again to make the gap just a hundredth. Massa had a trip into the gravel on his first attempt but managed to keep going and finally posted 11th. Coulthard made ninth and Webber improved to fourth after dropping a couple of places.
Coulthard then climbed to fifth and Alonso posted fourth when he took to the time sheet. De la Rosa clocked fastest sectors all round to improve to 1:33.544, leaving Zonta 1.8 down. Fisichella had a difficult start when his Renault spun off into the gravel at turn two. There was a brief yellow flag period while the car was recovered and it was session over for the Italian. Coulthard was first to move when the track went green, up to fourth.
Sato, who had been languishing at the back, climbed to 11th then seventh in quick succession. Klien posted 13th and Villeneuve was the penultimate driver to make it onto the time sheet in 23rd. That left Raikkonen, who followed shortly afterwards. Button moved up to sixth and Villeneuve to 18th, and with just a few minutes to go Raikkonen posted 17th after running wide at the hairpin.
Alonso improved to third and de la Rosa dropped his time to 1:33.463, while Villeneuve gained another spot to 17th. Raikkonen finally woke up and shot up to third, with teammate Montoya taking fifth after being shuffled down the order. Barrichello put in a last gasp effort for second, 1.8 off de la Rosa, and Michael did likewise for fifth. A notable effort by Ferrari but it's early days.
The track was very green and slippery this morning and there were several off-track excursions, although Fisichella was the only retiree. No conclusions can be drawn yet but McLaren, unsurprisingly, appeared the overall best. Final top eight classification: De la Rosa, Barrichello, Zonta, Raikkonen, M. Schumacher, Montoya, Alonso, Webber.