Schumacher top in first Italian GP practice

It was a quiet start to the Italian Grand Prix weekend, the Monza circuit overcast but dry, with a track temperature of around 17C. Minardi's Alex Yoong returns to competition this weekend after a two race break and was the first to take to the ...

It was a quiet start to the Italian Grand Prix weekend, the Monza circuit overcast but dry, with a track temperature of around 17C. Minardi's Alex Yoong returns to competition this weekend after a two race break and was the first to take to the track. He and team mate Mark Webber set the early times, Webber ahead with a 1:28.004.

The Australian was quickly eclipsed by the Jaguar of Eddie Irvine who set a time nearly two and a half seconds faster. A huge cheer from the crowd greeted Michael Schumacher, the champion taking over the top slot from Irvine with a 1.23.524, followed by the Williams of brother Ralf. Juan Pablo Montoya replaced his team mate shortly afterwards, the top times changing quite rapidly, and Pedro de la Rosa was third quickest.

Toyota had both cars in the top ten early on, as did Sauber and Renault; Mika Salo, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button the leading car of each respectively. Sauber intend to run both Massa and Nick Heidfeld with the Head and Neck Support (HANS) system this weekend, the device is already compulsory in some series. McLaren were quiet in the first half of the session, Kimi Raikkonen and David Couthard hovering around the edge of the top ten.

The Honda teams of Jordan and BAR ran reasonably well and without any of the engine failures that plagued them at Spa. Giancarlo Fisichella had the better of Takuma Sato and Jacques Villeneuve of Olivier Panis. As expected, there was no sign of Arrows. The continuing legal and financial situation prevented the team taking part in yet another race. The FIA are being tolerant and have delayed making a decision on any penalty until Arrows have sorted themselves out.

Michael held the top of the times without disturbance although Rubens Barrichello was very casual, only putting in two laps in the session. Jaguar remained constant in the top six despite Irvine having a minor off. There has been some comment by drivers on the height of the kerbs at Monza and of the new speed bumps. The bumps have been installed at the run off areas of the first and second chicanes which makes life difficult for anyone who cuts across. Although there is room for drivers to weave between them, some think they are too close together and could cause problems.

No surprises in the first session, Schumacher setting a best of 1.22.869 followed by the two Williams. Final top six classification: M. Schumacher, Montoya, R. Schumacher, de la Rosa, Trulli, Irvine.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Giancarlo Fisichella , Takuma Sato , Jenson Button , Pedro de la Rosa , Michael Schumacher , Mark Webber , Olivier Panis , Jacques Villeneuve , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Mika Salo , Felipe Massa
Teams Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan