Ferrari set the pace in the first official practice session of the Formula 1 season in Melbourne, Australia - but it was team number two Rubens Barrichello who stole the show. Barrichello lapped in 1m 28.965s, 1.6 seconds faster than last year's...
Ferrari set the pace in the first official practice session of the Formula 1 season in Melbourne, Australia - but it was team number two Rubens Barrichello who stole the show. Barrichello lapped in 1m 28.965s, 1.6 seconds faster than last year's pole position time at the same track. Barrichello's team -mate Michael Schumacher, the defending world champion, crashed spectacularly two minutes before the end of practice while tryi ng to match Barrichello's time. The German's car rolled twice after he lost control at Turn Six, but he was not seriously injured. On Michelin's return to F1 racing, their leading runner was BMW WilliamsF1 Team driver Ralf Schumacher, who finished fifth an d sixth fastest in the two sessions.
Behind Barrichello, Jordan driver Jarno Trulli set second fastest time - just ahead of Schumacher, and McLaren pairing David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen. Schumacher's younger brother Ralf (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) was overall sixth fastest. The German recovered from a brief off -track excursion early in the morning to be fastest of the Michelin-equipped drivers on the day. WilliamsF1' technical director Patrick Head commented: "The tyres performed very well. We've run bot h the prime and the option tyre and both were very stable and consistent. Today we worked on the set-up of the car to suit the requirements of the car."
Jean Alesi (Prost -Acer) was the second Michelin driver in the top 10. The Frenchman completed only th ree laps in the first part of the session before a technical problem forced him to make a lengthy pit stop, but he bounced back to set ninth fastest time in the second. Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing) was third fastest of the Michelin runners in 13th place o verall, just ahead of Schumacher Jnr's new team -mate Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian was on course to improve his lap time in the closing moments, but he ruined his chances by running over a kerb.
Giancarlo Fisichella (16th) was the quicker of the two M ild Seven Benetton Renault Sport drivers. His team -mate Jenson Button (21st) was forced to stop running early because he picked up a puncture. Teenage newcomer Fernando Alonso (European Minardi -Michelin) impressed by setting 17th fastest time in a car tha t has not previously run in anger.
There were problems, however, for two other Michelin drivers. Alonso's team -mate Tarso Marques was sidelined by engine failure and Luciano Burti (Jaguar) caused practice to be interrupted briefly when he lost control and crashed into a retaining wall.
Pierre Dupasquier ( Motorsport Director ):
"This first day of free practice here in Melbourne has shown that the hierarchy of last year doesn't look to have changed. Between Ferrari and McLaren and the oth er teams, the gap seems to be about the same. We are very satisfied with the results of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya, who with different tyre strategies and with a reasonable fuel load, set quite significant times. It is also great to see Jean Alesi (Prost Acer) in the top ten times."
"At this early stage, it would seem that our initial thoughts about the circuit were correct: it is quite aggressive today with consequently relatively high rates of tyre wear, but this should evolve over the week end. The fast times compared to last year are a surprise though."