Australian Grand Prix Free practice, Friday 01 march 2002 World champion Michael Schumacher got his title defence off to a spirited start as Formula One teams ended their five-month winter break and took part in their first official practice ...
Australian Grand Prix
Free practice, Friday 01 march 2002
World champion Michael Schumacher got his title defence off to a spirited start as Formula One teams ended their five-month winter break and took part in their first official practice session of the season in Melbourne's Albert Park. The Ferrari star, who will equal Argentine legend Juan Manuel Fangio's record of five world titles if he can take the crown again this season, lapped in 1m 27.276s, 0.523s faster than team-mate Rubens Barrichello. At the end of the session Schumacher ran off the track while try ing to improve his time further but his car was not damaged. Ferrari has delayed introducing its latest car and its drivers are using brand-new 2001-spec chassis that have been mildly updated. Michelin had a promising day on the first anniversary of its F1 comeback.
BMW WilliamsF1 Team drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya were third and fourth fastest, while Mika Salo was sixth for F1's newest team Panasonic Toyota Racing. The Japanese manufacturer, which has enjoyed previous success with Michelin in rallyin g and sports car racing, sprang one of the surprises of the day with its competitiveness. Rookie Allan McNish was only one second shy of team-mate Salo -- but times were so close that he was classified 16th.
Of the other Michelin runners, new partner team McLaren-Mercedes's latest signing Kimi Raikkonen was seventh fastest, despite several trips across the grass, and Scot David Coulthard was 11th. Renault drivers Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button were 10th and 15 th respectively, while Pedro de la Rosa (14th) had the edge on Jaguar team-mate Eddie Irvine (17th). The Australian-owned KL Minardi Asiatech team suffered several technical problems during the day. New recruit Mark Webber is the first Australian to race i n F1 since David Brabham in 1994. He was 20th fastest but his team-mate Alex Yoong was 22nd and last after spinning into a gravel trap.
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
The changeable weather conditions affected the track today. Was that a problem? "Yes. It wasn't a productive day from our perspective. It would have been more interesting if conditions had been consistent and more familiar. Traditionally the track here in Melbourne becomes quicker as the weekend wears on, but the rain this morning sto pped us doing some of the work we had planned. Eventually we got going, running cars on both light and heavy fuel loads. Some of our partner teams even got around to comparing our two tyre compounds, although they weren't able to find out very much. As a r esult, the bulk of our work will be concentrated on tomorrow's two 45-minute sessions."
What did you learn about your rain tyres? "We felt comfortable with the way they performed this morning. That was a plus point. The intermediates weren't quite so effective, but because we aren't used to such conditions here it is difficult to know why. The same tyres proved to be very competitive when we tried them in Barcelona, but less so here."
What are the differences between your primary (A) and option (B) tyre? "We have taken on board the lessons we learned here last year and have tried to adapt the tyres accordingly. The first few laps today proved that both are suitable for use in the race. They are working very well."
Do you already have an idea which of them might be best for Sunday? "No, because everything we learned today might be irrelevant tomorrow. The nature of the track is sure to be different, but we don't know exactly how it is going to change. Today it was quite abrasive because the rain washed away a lot of the dust. As for tomorrow, let's wait and see. There might be a surprise."
There are several support races here -- could that affect the way the track changes? "That's one of the mysteries of Melbourne. Several different types of car are using the track before and after the F1 activities. They could make the track dirtier and alter conditions substantially from one session to the next. In such circumstances it is hard to determine a clear strategy."