INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 22, 2000 -- McLaren and Ferrari were right where race fans would expect them to be - the two fastest teams - after the first two Formula One practice sessions ever at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor...
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 22, 2000 -- McLaren and Ferrari were right where race fans would expect them to be - the two fastest teams - after the first two Formula One practice sessions ever at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. David Coulthard and defending World Champion Mika Hakkinen of the West McLaren Mercedes team led the speed chart, followed closely by the red-clad drivers Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello of the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team as practice began for Sunday's inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix. "That's normal business," said Schumacher, the German driver who trails Finland's Hakkinen in the points, 80-78, with this race and two others remaining on the schedule. When the two one-hour practice sessions were complete, Scotsman Coulthard had recorded the low time of 1 minute, 14.561 seconds for a speed of 202.400 kilometers per hour. That translates into 125.766 mph. Hakkinen was .134 of a second slower than his teammate at 1:14.695, while Schumacher clocked a 1:14.927 and Barrichello a 1:15.144. Benson & Hedges Jordan driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen was fifth at 1:15.226. Jacques Villeneuve, winner of the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and the 1997 Formula One World Champion, was 10th quickest in his Lucky Strike BAR Honda at 1:16.147. "To have a true World Championship, you need to race in America," Coulthard said. "To do that in Indianapolis, you don't get any better than that." Coulthard, third in points with 61, found the new course "quite interesting" through the infield section. He said the designers did a very good job in laying out the configuration. "Probably more interesting than any track other than Monaco," he said. "The oval section is quite fun to be banked into the corner, but there's no problem for anyone. It's more a spectacle to us than a challenge." Coulthard said he had a reasonable day, but must make improvement in Saturday's practice before qualifying if he is to have a shot at the pole. Hakkinen was ecstatic about the course after his feeling-out session. "I think the circuit is great, really enjoyable to drive and quite difficult in some parts," he said. "Generally talking, they've done a fantastic racetrack. It's tough finding the right setup. To find the right balance and setup is very, very complicated. If you don't have the right balance, you're slow through there." Hakkinen also was pleased with the safety aspects of the circuit. "Fantastic," he said. "If you go off there, you have lots of space. The other corners are very good." Schumacher was nonplussed that he was only third fastest on opening day. "You push the car consistently," said Schumacher, tied with the late Ayrton Senna with 41 career victories. "Otherwise, you don't learn. You're not concerned, though, with lap times. You try to develop the car to get the best lap allowed." Most impressive to Schumacher was the huge crowd that filled many of the grandstands and swarmed about the available infield area. Many fans carried flags representing their home country or the team they favored. Two Ferrari fans even wore long red wigs. "You normally don't see that on Friday," he said. "So I think it was a good combination. I hope they feel they got something back for their money. "Obviously, there's no overtaking today. It's simply practice. We enjoyed the circuit." There were two incidents involving car damage during the two sessions. Giancarlo Fisichella drove off course and straight into the protective tire barrier in Turn 11, and Johnny Herbert punctured a left rear tire in an off-course excursion in Turn 1. Frentzen made history when he took his Benson & Hedges Jordan onto the track first. But Englishman Johnny Herbert was the first to complete a lap in his Jaguar Racing machine. Also making their Indy debut were the Porsche Pirelli Supercup cars. Capturing the pole for Saturday's round was Bernd Maylander at 1:37.738 while Jorg Bergmeister won the pole for Sunday's round at 1:37.035. Also participating in the Porsche Pirelli Supercup were 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti and two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr. Andretti qualified 20th and 19th, respectively, for the two races. Unser qualified 21st for both races. Both drivers worked to gain experience in the production-based sports cars.
Alessandro Zampedri, who finished fourth at Indy in 1996, is a Supercup regular now and qualified eighth.
-Indianapolis Motor Speedway-