Saturday's first free practice was warm and damp, track temperature about ten degrees lower than yesterday, around 26C. An earlier rainstorm left the track slippery and many drivers were immediately out to get some installation laps in. The crowd showed their appreciation as Michael Schumacher went out but a slow start to the session, most drivers getting their installation laps done then back to the garage, waiting for the track to dry out a bit.
The ever enthusiastic Mark Webber was the first man to clock a time, followed by Minardi team mate Alex Yoong, both in the one minute forty sixes -- well off the 1.37 set by Kim Raikkonen in yesterday's second free, but the times started coming down almost immediately. Both Jaguars were next on the time sheets, followed by the Toyota of Allan McNish. McLaren's David Coulthard took over the top of the times with a 1.38.881 as the drying track started speeding things up, over three seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
The two BARs put in some good times about half way through the session, both in the top three until Jordan's Giancarlo Fisichella took second, then Ralf Schumacher for Williams took over the top slot. There was a lot of activity, Jenson Button up into second for Renault and the other Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya took the fastest time from team mate Ralf, Williams looking stronger today. That was until Michael Schumacher took to the track again and immediately posted fastest with a low 1.37.
Arrows were very quiet, Heinz-Harald Frentzen had some kind of engine problem while Enrique Bernoldi was outside the top ten. Top of the times were taken over by Ferrari and Williams, Button holding fifth for Renault and both McLarens behind him in a slower performance after yesterday's second free where they were fastest. In the final seconds Raikkonen took third and Rubens Barichello snatched fastest, just scraping under 1.37, in what was a fairly uneventful session. Final classification: Barrichello, 1:36.974; M. Schumacher, Raikkonen, Montoya, Button, R. Schumacher.