The first practice for Sunday's 73-lap United States Grand Prix at the 2.605-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is in the books and Ferrari are on top. Rubens Barrichello grabbed the fastest lap early in the hour-long practice session and improved steadily.
With just ten minutes remaining in the interrupted first practice, Barrichello turned a lap at 1:11.354 to best teammate and current Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher, who was clocked at 1:11.619, just 0.265 seconds behind his teammate.
Schumacher was one of several drivers to take excursions off the 13-turn circuit that incorporates sections of the historic 2.5-mile Brickyard oval. Trying to better his teammate's quickest lap, Schumacher spun at turn 1 with only three minutes remaining in the session but was unable to beat Barrichello. The Ferrari drivers turned 16 laps each.
Reserve driver Anthony Davidson was third in the BAR-Honda with a lap of 1:11.693 and amassed 23 laps during the session. BMW Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya was fourth after completing 11 laps at 1:12.008, while Ricardo Zonta, reserve driver for the Panasonic Toyota squad took fifth with 1:12.366. Jaguar Racing's reserve pilot Bjorn Wirdheim was sixth at 1:12.424, while Jenson Button gave the BAR Honda a whirl to seventh at 1:12.553.
Giancarlo Fisichella's Sauber Petronas took eighth at 1:12.575, followed by the Panasonic Toyota of Olivier Panis, 1:12.631, while BMW Williams driver Ralf Schumacher rounded out the top ten at 1:12.850.
Ralf Schumacher was first to spin off after 28 minutes when he took an off-circuit excursion at Turn 7. Schumacher continued, but that was not the case for Gianmaria Bruni's Minardi Cosworth, which spun at Turn 8 and ended up facing the opposite direction of practice traffic. Bruni exited the car but it had to be removed, necessitating a near-four minute red flag.
Zonta was off and on at Turn 1 with eleven minutes left in the session, while Jarno Trulli spun and continued at Turn 9 just a minute later. David Coulthard, who ended up in 18th place after this first practice spun and continued at Turn 8 around the same time, while Mark Webber was off and on in the Jaguar at Turn 8 with four minutes left to go.
Only the top four drivers practiced within one second, while the top 13 (Monaco winner Jarno Trulli in 13th) were within two seconds. The entire field of 25 was separated by 5.697 seconds with Zsolt Baumgartner the caboose in the Minardi Cosworth.
The second hour-long practice for the F1 cars takes place at 2PM EST this afternoon. A third practice ensues between 8-8:45AM Saturday with pre-qualifying set for noon and, at 1PM the hour-long final qualifying for Sunday's ninth Grand Prix of the 2004 season takes place.