McLaren fastest on French GP Friday

McLaren fastest on French GP Friday

McLaren stayed at the top of the times in the second free practice session for the French Grand Prix, third driver Pedro de la Rosa setting a best of 1:14.460. He was a few tenths up on his own quickest time of the morning and Juan Pablo Montoya...

McLaren stayed at the top of the times in the second free practice session for the French Grand Prix, third driver Pedro de la Rosa setting a best of 1:14.460. He was a few tenths up on his own quickest time of the morning and Juan Pablo Montoya made it a McLaren one-two in the afternoon with second, seven tenths off his teammate. The Ferrari of Michael Schumacher was third fastest.

Pedro de la Rosa.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The good conditions continued at Magny Cours, with the track temperature up to approx 40 degrees, some 10 degrees higher than this morning's session. De la Rosa was quickly on track, along with Red Bull and Toyota counterparts Tonio Liuzzi and Olivier Panis and the Minardi of Patrick Friesacher.

Red Bull's Christian Klien was also out swiftly, as were McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen and Montoya. De la Rosa started proceeding with a 1:16.991, followed by Panis, Klien, Liuzzi, Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan, Friesacher and the second Minardi of Christijan Albers taking positions second to seventh.

Raikkonen was the first casualty of the afternoon with an engine failure in the middle sector, which will demote him 10 places in qualifying. David Coulthard put his Red Bull second but was quickly ousted by the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello, and de la Rosa dropped his time marginally to 1:16.901. Liuzzi took fifth and Montoya seventh to make 10 drivers on the time sheet after 10 minutes.

Sauber's Felipe Massa arrived in sixth and de la Rosa improved yet again to 1:16.886. BAR's Jenson Button took third and the Williams of Mark Webber fifth, and Michael Schumacher put his Ferrari 10th. Ralf Schumacher's Toyota clocked fifth on his first effort and Button moved up to second, a tenth and half off de la Rosa.

Michael improved to third but was immediately demoted by Ralf taking the slot, then they were both shunted down by Jarno Trulli's Toyota snatching the position. De la Rosa was still lowering his time, 1:16.501 on the next lap, and Trulli climbed one to second, four tenths off the McLaren.

Klien was the next retiree when he slid into the tyre barrier at the Nurburgring chicane, just after he'd set the fastest first sector. There was a lull in activity in the following yellow flag period then Nick Heidfeld moved his Williams into 10th. Teammate Webber improved to sixth and Fernando Alonso put his Renault to the top with a 1:16.969.

Montoya climbed to third and Jacques Villeneuve's Sauber improved to 14th. Panis made his way back to 7th after being shuffled down the order and Alonso dropped his time to 1:15.641. Teammate Giancarlo Fisichella clocked second, three tenths off, then Michael demoted the pair of them with a 1:15.204.

Fisichella went back to second, still three tenths astray, and Barrichello posted third. Alonso took second off Fisichella and closed the gap to Michael to just seven hundredths. BAR's Takuma Sato who had been loitering at the back, went up to 13th and after the first half hour's activity it quietened down a little.

At the back, Jordan third driver Robert Doornbos led the pack of Jordans and Minardis in 19th, and Massa improved to 15th after being demoted way down the order. Button also made his way back up the times to eighth and Friesacher took his turn at leading the backmarkers in 18th. Montoya removed Michael from the top by less than a tenth, 1:15.129.

At that point the top five were separated by half a second but then there was a big gap to Coulthard in sixth, 1.2 off Montoya. Sato went up to 11th and Villeneuve made a good effort for seventh, while Karthikeyan moved to the front of the Jordan/Minardi train. Trulli jumped up to sixth, Massa climbed to 11th and Doornbos took over from Karthikeyan.

Ralf improved to seventh and de la Rosa, who had been idling at the edge of the top ten, set fastest sectors across the board to clock 1:14.460 for the top, seven tenths up on Montoya. There were some minor improvements through the field but the McLarens remained at the top and only the top five were within a second, Panis fractionally outside in sixth.

"The car ran reliably today which allowed us to complete our planned programme," de la Rosa commented. "We have a good idea about the direction of our Michelin tyre selection and it should be a strong weekend. There was a bit of understeer this morning but we solved that for the afternoon session."

Montoya was equally satisfied with his day. "We have done a lot of work today and played with the car quite a bit," he said. "I think we have a good idea of where we want to go and it looks like I'm going to be pretty quick. However our opposition also looks strong, so it should be an interesting weekend, but I'm really pleased with how the car is behaving."

Michael, unsurprisingly, is aiming for the top step of the podium on Sunday. "This has been a productive Friday and I am quite happy with what we have achieved," he remarked. "I think we can be fighting for the win this weekend. The team has worked very hard over the past weeks and even months and it seems that all this work is beginning to pay off now."

McLaren certainly looked on the pace on Friday, as did Renault, while Ferrari was not too far off. The Toyotas were solidly in the top ten but BAR was not quite so consistent, in amongst the Red Bulls and Saubers. Williams was the lowest of the big names, Heidfeld and Webber back in the midfield, but that's not unusual for Williams on a Friday.

Doornbos stayed ahead of the Jordan and Minardi group in 18th, while both Minardis were ahead of Monteiro, who rounded off the times. Raikkonen had not set time when he retired after only two laps. Final top eight classification: De la Rosa, Montoya, Schumacher, Alonso, Fisichella, Panis, Barrichello, Trulli.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan