World champion Michael Schumacher was fastest on the opening day of the Belgian Grand Prix, the 14th round of this year's Formula 1 world championship. On the 10th anniversary of his F1 debut, the German lapped in 1m 48.655s before a sudden...
World champion Michael Schumacher was fastest on the opening day of the Belgian Grand Prix, the 14th round of this year's Formula 1 world championship. On the 10th anniversary of his F1 debut, the German lapped in 1m 48.655s before a sudden downpour soaked the track and settled the final order with more than half an hour still to run.
If Schumacher wins this weekend he will become the most successful driver in F1 history in terms of race victories: he currently shares the record of 51 with Frenchman Alain Prost. His day didn't run entirely smoothly, however. At one point he ran into the back of Jaguar driver Pedro de la Rosa and knocked off his Ferrari's nose wing. Jarno Trulli (Jordan-Honda) spun twice but still set second fastest time, ahead of Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari).
Michelin's partner teams had a promising start to the weekend. Giancarlo Fisichella (Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport) was fourth fastest, Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team-Michelin) seventh, Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing- Michelin) eighth, Jenson Button (Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport-Michelin) 10th and Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Prost- Acer-Michelin) 12th.
Things didn't run quite so well for others, however. De la Rosa was forced to stop running early after his collision with Schumacher, because he sustained a rear puncture, but he had earlier set 13th quickest time. Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, 16th) crashed heavily, Fernando Alonso (European Minardi, 18th) pulled up with a technical problem, Tarso Marques (European Minardi, 19th) was delayed by a spin and Luciano Burti (Prost-Acer, 21st) only ran in the wet after an early spin forced him to miss the first part of the two-hour session, when the circuit was still dry.
Scot David Coulthard, who leads the chase to finish second the Schumacher Snr in the world championship, was sidelined for the whole session after crashing his McLaren-Mercedes on his first flying lap at the start of the day.
Pierre Dupasquier, Motorsport Director
How well do you know Spa?
"It feels as though we have been racing here forever. We dominated the 24-hour event that took place at this track three weeks ago, but it should be pointed out that we are finding out about the way that grooved F1 tyres react on this track. There might therefore be a few surprises in store for us. Today our tyres performed reasonably in both wet and dry conditions so we are fairly optimistic."
What are the differences between your primary (A) and option (B) tyres this weekend?
"In dry conditions the primary tyre should produce excellent results. It features a new construction that is designed to improve performance in high-speed corners. We saw how well it worked during testing in Barcelona. If the weather is colder this might not be the thing to use, but our option tyre is tailored for those conditions. We have come up with two very different compounds to allow for the potentially wide variation in temperatures, but the rain during today's two sessions didn't allow us to gather all the information we need."
Were you happy with the way your rain tyre performed?
"We conducted some intensive testing with our wet-weather tyres last month and have made a certain amount of progress. We have brought some new tyres here that feature a new compound and construction. The grooves are a secondary concern. We didn't dominate but cars on our tyres were among the fastest on the track this afternoon, which was good news. That said we haven't made kind of gain we might have hoped for with our intermediates in the light of the way our wets have performed. We must look into the reasons for that."