Same hierarchy. Formula One's team of the moment Ferrari set the pace on the opening day of practice for the Austrian Grand Prix. Rubens Barrichello lapped in 1m 10.549s, 0.030s faster than team-mate Michael Schumacher ^Ã– but both featured...
Formula One's team of the moment Ferrari set the pace on the opening day of practice for the Austrian Grand Prix. Rubens Barrichello lapped in 1m 10.549s, 0.030s faster than team-mate Michael Schumacher ^Ö but both featured among the large number of drivers who ran off the track during the day. Mishaps are common during Friday free practice in Austria because the A1-Ring's low-grip track surface tends to be very dusty at the start of a race weekend and drivers are inevitably caught out as they push to find t he limit.
Although Ferrari has comfortably won the previous two rounds of the FIA F1 World Championship, its rivals appear to be much closer this weekend. Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team /Michelin) led the pursuit at a track where he shone last season. The C olombian was less than one-tenth of a second behind Barrichello and a last-minute effort to improve was stymied when he, too, ran wide and ploughed through a gravel trap. His team-mate Ralf Schumacher was 12th fastest after being delayed by a couple of spi ns.
Most Michelin teams adapted well to a track at which they were expected to perform well. Kimi Räikkönen (West McLaren-Mercedes, fourth) was best of the rest, ahead of Allan McNish (Panasonic Toyota Racing, fifth), Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar Racing, seventh), David Coulthard (West McLaren-Mercedes, ninth) and Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing, 11th).
The Renaults of Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli were 14th and 17th respectively, McNish's team-mate Mika Salo was 19th and the KL Minardi-Asiatechs of Alex Yoong and Mark Webber were 20th and 22nd. Despite the high number of off-track incidents, which affec ted almost every team, no cars were seriously damaged.
Michelin's day Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
The Michelin cars' performance was fairly modest this morning but much stronger this afternoon, with five cars in the top 10 and Juan Pablo Montoya only a whisker slower than the Ferraris. Why the dramatic improvement?
"As we know, practice times on a Friday can be very misleading with teams running a variety of different fuel levels. It is very clear that the track was exceptionally dusty when the first session began and in those conditions it isn't always worth pushing too hard. The track became faster as more rubber went down during the day, but generally I think the biggest difference is that some cars may have run lighter this afternoon."
Are you happy with the performance of your primary (A) and option (B) compounds so far?
"Yes. Both worked very well but we still have to predict how the track might evolve and to examine which of them might suit different cars in certain situations. It is foreseeable that both types of tyre will be used in the race, which traditionally favour s a one-stop strategy. Heavier fuel loads don't take too much of a toll on tyres, the weight of the extra fuel is not really punitive: an extra 10 kg of fuel can make a difference less than three tenths per lap."
The A1-Ring is probably the smoothest track Formula One cars race on. What is the biggest challenge for Michelin at a track like this, where tyre wear is minimal?
"The low grip level means we have to bring tyres that are much softer than those used in the previous race at Barcelona, which is very abrasive. But we still have to be very careful because there are a couple of corners that place extreme loads on tyres an d it is vital not to go too far."
Are you happy with the way things have gone so far?
"Yes, generally speaking. We have had no particular problems and have worked decently with our partners to prepare some days race."