Rain hits Japanese GP last practices

Rain hits Japanese GP last practices

Giancarlo Fisichella paddled though the two Saturday morning practices for the Japanese Grand Prix to come out on top with a last minute 1:50.136 for Renault. It was wet and slippery at Suzuka and Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan was second fastest, ...

Giancarlo Fisichella paddled though the two Saturday morning practices for the Japanese Grand Prix to come out on top with a last minute 1:50.136 for Renault. It was wet and slippery at Suzuka and Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan was second fastest, followed by the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher in third.

Giancarlo Fisichella.
Photo by LAT Photographic.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli led out for the installation laps on a track that was declared wet for the first session. Minardi's Robert Doornbos followed on, along with Ralf and Juan Pablo Montoya's McLaren. The Minardi of Christijan Albers also made an appearance but it was a slow start.

Kimi Raikkonen, who will lose 10 places on the grid due to an engine failure on Friday, came out for an installation lap in the McLaren but didn't hang around. Michael Schumacher's Ferrari and Takuma Sato's BAR did likewise, followed by the Jordan of Tiago Monteiro, and Michael was the first to put a time up.

The German clocked 1:46.543 but then spun into the barrier as the rain got harder, causing a brief yellow flag period. The Ferrari sustained damage to the front but Michael was unharmed. David Coulthard's Red Bull was next to test the waters, as it were, and posted a time eight seconds off Michael.

Karthikeyan and Felipe Massa ventured out for an installation lap in the Jordan and Sauber respectively, and Albers made it all of three on the time sheet, over seven seconds off Michael's time. He then had another go and moved ahead of Coulthard for second, six seconds off, and a couple of other cars took to the track.

Karthikeyan's Jordan clocked third and Monteiro fifth, followed by the Williams of Antonio Pizzonia into sixth but then Raikkonen took the place off him. Karthikeyan moved up to second but was rapidly demoted by Pizzonia and then Montoya in quick succession. Raikkonen then took the place, over two seconds off Michael.

Christian Klien's Red Bull made it nine on the time sheet, then Mark Webber's Williams and the BAR of Takuma Sato also joined in at the end. Rubens Barrichello put his Ferrari seventh and Jenson Button's BAR paddled into eighth and that was pretty much it. Michael remained fastest with Raikkonen and Montoya second and third.

Doornbos was the first to try his hand in the second session but spun off in the last sector before even setting a time. Obviously a complete lack of grip in the wet, the rain still heavy. Pizzonia had an installation lap but didn't linger and headed straight back to the pits. Alonso tried a flier and clocked 1:55.798.

He then lowered it to 1:53.289 on his next couple of laps and Villeneuve and Klien slotted into second and third respectively. Fisichella took the third spot then Villeneuve and Klien in quick succession posted second. Barrichello appeared in fourth, behind Klien and Alonso. Jenson Button joined the party in second, followed by Trulli into third.

Ralf was seventh and Coulthard eighth, the times rapidly changing, Doornbos and Sato in the mix. Ralf improved to fourth and Coulthardto second, two tenths off Truli who has shot to the top with a 1:51.824. Ralf climbed again to third and Alonso made sixth in the pouring rain.

Webber was next to the top, 1:51.274, followed by Albers into second, four tenths down. Fisichella took over with a 1:50.818 but was swiftly demoted by Ralf's 1:50.369, half a second up. In the closing seconds Karthikeyan belted out a 1:50.150 for the top but was ousted by Fisichella's 1:50.136.

And that was it. There's nothing to read into these times; the rain makes everything unpredictable. As if it wasn't anyway. Final top eight classification: Fisichella, Karthikeyan, R. Schumacher, Button. Albers, Monteiro, Webber, Trulli.

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