It was a cold but sunny morning for the third free practice at Imola, track temperature 17C and mostly dry after yesterday's wet sessions. Jaguar's Eddie Irvine was the first man out swiftly followed by most of the rest to put in some installation...
It was a cold but sunny morning for the third free practice at Imola, track temperature 17C and mostly dry after yesterday's wet sessions. Jaguar's Eddie Irvine was the first man out swiftly followed by most of the rest to put in some installation laps. Intermediate or wet tyres were the order of the day and everyone was quick to take to the circuit, even the Ferraris were out within the first ten minutes.
Some areas of the track were still fairly damp and the temperature dropped a couple of degrees, which was not good news for the Michelin runners. Giancarlo Fisichella took the top of the times early on, followed by team mate Takuma Sato, Jordan looking strong this weekend. Toyota were among the front runners, as was the Williams of Ralf Schumacher, the track drying steadily despite the cold.
BAR picked up from yesterday's poor performance, both Jacques Villeneuve and Olivier Panis in the top eleven early on. Renault again were on the pace and even the Minardis were going well, the dryer conditions benefiting everyone. Sauber's Felipe Massa stormed up to second then had a brief visit to the gravel and both Arrows were in the top seven by about half way through the session. Villeneuve took the top of the times in what must have been as much a surprise to him as it was to everyone else.
Nick Heidfeld bumped Villeneuve off the top, Sauber going very well, swiftly followed by the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello. The McLarens were keeping a very low profile, as were Jaguar then Michael Schumacher easily took the best time. Panis jumped up to third, BAR seeming much stronger today -- but at 35 minutes gone everyone from Minardi's Mark Webber in 17th on down were outside the provisional 107%. Yellow flags came out when de la Rosa spun into the gravel and ended his session.
Fisichella took up second place behind Michael while team mate Sato spun at Aqua Minerale. Drivers started using dry tyres which saw Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya up in the top five, Michelin making a come-back in the drier conditions. In the final minutes David Coulthard improved for McLaren, Montoya, Barrichello and Fisichella spun off to end what was a fairly entertaining session. Final top six classification: Montoya, R. Schumacher, Coulthard, M. Schumacher, Frentzen, Villeneuve.