Zonta sets the pace in Bahrain GP first practice

Zonta sets the pace in Bahrain GP first practice

Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta put in his usual competent performance to set a fastest time of 1:31.449 in Friday's first practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix. In what was mostly an uneventful session Michael Schumacher was second...

Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta put in his usual competent performance to set a fastest time of 1:31.449 in Friday's first practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix. In what was mostly an uneventful session Michael Schumacher was second quickest in the new Ferrari F2005, nearly seven tenths down on Zonta, and Red Bull No.3 Vitantonio Liuzzi was third.

Ricardo Zonta.
Photo by Toyota Racing.

The track temperature was in the mid forties at the start of the session and the air temperature around 10 degrees lower. Jordan third driver Robert Doornbos led the pack out for the installation laps and McLaren's Alex Wurz only completed a few laps before his car came to a halt on track. Wurz has taken over Pedro de la Rosa's Friday role while the Spaniard stands in for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya.

Zonta put the first time on the board, 1:36.709, with Liuzzi and Doornbos following behind. Zonta reduced his time over the next couple of laps to 1:34.741 while Doornbos and Liuzzi traded places but there was little action in the early part of the hour. The Minardis of Patrick Friesacher and Christijan Albers joined in fourth and fifth after 20 minutes.

Albers had an off track excursion but managed to keep going and went ahead of his teammate, although both were over four seconds off the pace. Zonta put in another couple of fliers with a best of 1:34.212, while Doornbos and Liuzzi continued to squabble over second, 1.3 behind. Tiago Montiero put his Jordan fourth and Narain Karthikeyan took the position off his teammate when he ventured out.

Albers and Friesacher swapped sixth and seventh a few times and eventually the pair of Williams drivers were the first heavy-hitters to appear. They lapped in formation with Mark Webber ahead for second and Nick Heidfeld slotted into sixth. Zonta, meanwhile, improved again to 1:34.111, three tenths up on Webber and Heidfeld had another go to climb to third. With 15 minutes remaining only nine drivers had set a time.

Liuzzi belted out a fast lap to take over the top with a 1:32.509 and de la Rosa clocked third on his first timed effort. Wurz managed to get back on track for the last 10 minutes and took second, nine tenths off Liuzzi. Zonta returned to the top, 1:31.974 for half a second up, and Jacques Villeneuve was the first Sauber to put up a time in 12th. David Coulthard's Red Bull took eighth and a few more cars came out towards the end.

Coulthard's teammate Christian Klien took the position off him and Felipe Massa put his Sauber 11th. Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren appeared in fourth while Zonta's time came down to 1:31.449. Michael was the first Ferrari out and clocked third and Jenson Button took seventh for BAR. Rubens Barrichello slotted his Ferrari into fifth and Michael improved to second.

The Renault and Toyota race drivers declined to put in any fast laps and BAR's Takuma Sato also did not set a time. As usual on a Friday morning it was mostly the third drivers who did the work with the racers dropping in at the end for a quick dash around. This afternoon's session should give a better idea of who's looking competitive. Final top eight classification: Zonta, M. Schumacher, Liuzzi, Wurz, Barrichello, de la Rosa, Webber, Raikkonen.

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