The first Friday practice session for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix was a fairly quiet affair and BMW Sauber's third driver Robert Kubica was the man at the top. His best time of 1:32.170 was just over a hundredth quicker than Williams ...
The first Friday practice session for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix was a fairly quiet affair and BMW Sauber's third driver Robert Kubica was the man at the top. His best time of 1:32.170 was just over a hundredth quicker than Williams counterpart Alex Wurz in second and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was the fastest race driver in third.
The air temperature was in the low thirties and the track some 10 degrees higher as the session got under way. One thing that hasn't changed is that the third drivers were the first out. Wurz, Honda's Anthony Davidson and Kubica appeared at the start of the session, followed by the Super Aguris of racers Takuma Sato and Yuji Ide.
Kubica and Ide are new faces to F1, as is Toro Rosso race driver Scott Speed, who was out next. The American was followed by teammate Tonio Liuzzi and another semi-new face, Toro Rosso No.3 Neel Jani. The Swiss previously tested sporadically with Sauber.
Christian Klien led out for Red Bull and MF1 third driver for this weekend Markus Winkelhock was next but these 10 drivers only did installation laps. Raikkonen was the first of the front-runners to appear for his initial trip round the circuit and after 10 minutes Wurz clocked the first time, 1:36.444.
When some teams were testing at Bahrain in February the times were in the 1:31 bracket so there was some way to go. The MF1 of Christijan Albers and the third Red Bull of Robert Doornbos were next on track, followed by MF1's Tiago Monteiro, Red Bull's David Coulthard and McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya.
Kubica joined the time sheet behind Wurz and Wurz dropped his time to 1:35.079 over then next few laps. Kubica improved to a tenth off the Williams and Ide posted third on his first timed effort, over 10 seconds down on Wurz. Kubica then took over at the top with a 1:34.700, just under four tenths ahead of Wurz.
Kubica improved marginally to 1:34.692 and Jani posted third, well over a second off the BMW and the Williams. Sato took fourth, one place and half a second ahead of teammate Ide, and Renault's reigning champion Fernando Alonso ventured out for an installation lap.
Sato lowered his time but stayed fourth and the second Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella also took to the track. Winklehock posted fifth to split the two Super Aguris and Doornbos went better to claim fourth. Kubica set fastest sectors across the board to drop his time to 1:33.577, a second and a half up on Wurz.
With 20 minutes to go there were only seven drivers on the time sheet and five of them were in the third cars, so it was business as usual for a Friday. Kubica improved again to 1:33.526 and Winkelhock moved ahead of Sato to return to fifth. Kubica had done the most laps at that point with 14.
Ide was slowly but steadily improving his time, down to a couple of tenths over seven seconds off Kubica's fastest. Doornbos improved to third and Wurz took the top spot off Kubica with fastest sectors all round, 1:32.380. Jani demoted Doornbos from third and Monteiro clocked seventh on his first flyer.
Things warmed up in the last 10 minutes; Liuzzi arrived in fourth and Albers posted eighth, then Monteiro moved up to sixth. Speed promptly took the place off him and Albers improved to seventh, while the Toyotas and Ferraris came out for installation laps, along with the BMW Saubers of Nick Heidfeld and Jacques Villeneuve.
Felipe Massa put his Ferrari fifth on his first timed lap and Monteiro and Winkelhock traded ninth and 10th. Montoya demoted Massa from fifth and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari took third. Klien posted eighth and Raikkonen ousted Michael for the third spot, then Coulthard clocked sixth.
Klien jumped up to fifth and Montoya went up to seventh after being shuffled down the times, and Massa did likewise to eighth. Kubica was on a good flyer and returned to the top with a 1:32.170, two tenths up on Wurz. The Williams man responded to close the gap to less than two hundredths.
And that was the end of the first practice. With so little track time for the majority of the race drivers there's no conclusions to be drawn from this initial foray. Kubica had a good debut for BMW and completed the most laps with 20. Only the third drivers and the Super Aguris did more than 10. Honda No.3 Davidson did not set a time due to a gearbox problem.
The Renault, Toyota and BMW race drivers also did not make the time sheet and their Williams and Honda counterparts didn't even put in an appearance. There should be more activity in the afternoon. Final top eight classification: Kubica, Wurz, Raikkonen, M. Schumacher, Klien, Jani, Montoya, Massa.