McLaren put any internal troubles it might be suffering behind it by setting the fastest time in both free practice sessions in Canada today. David Coulthard fought off a concerted challenge from the Ferraris in the first period, while Mika...
McLaren put any internal troubles it might be suffering behind it by setting the fastest time in both free practice sessions in Canada today. David Coulthard fought off a concerted challenge from the Ferraris in the first period, while Mika Hakkinen comprehensively dominated the later session, setting a time 0.8s quicker than the 2000 pole.
Pleasant summery conditions greeted the teams as the opening session commenced, but track temperatures remained a cool 24 degrees Celsius during the day. After the first session it looked as though the tepid surface was working against the Michelin tyres, but a great showing by Jaguar Racing's Eddie Irvine confounded these fears in the afternoon.
With the revised R2 continuing the strong performance it demonstrated in Monaco, Irvine ended the day as the top Michelin runner in third place. His best lap of 1m18.508s was briefly good enough to put him at the head of the timesheets, and a series of laps in the 1m18s confirmed that it was no fluke. Williams, the team that normally sets the standards for the French rubber, could not match the pace of the Jaguar, and both drivers had offs as they tried to make up time. In the end it was track rookie Juan Pablo Montoya who was the quicker of the two, setting a time of 1m18.639s on his way to fifth.
But it is the McLarens that everyone will have to beat in qualifying tomorrow. In the first session David Coulthard was the only driver to break into the 1m18s, a feat mirrored by Hakkinen in the second, who was alone in the 1m17s brackett. The Finn had a brush with a barrier early on in the second session, and pitted as a precaution. Once back in the groove he proceeded to shave a tenth or so off his best time, almost at will.
In contrast to McLaren, Ferrari appeared to struggle. Barrichello popped up with a good late run to nick second spot in morning practice, and although he improved his time, he could do no better than fourth in the second session. Michael Schumacher looked on course to take the top slot in the first session, only to be denied by Coulthard. However, he missed almost half of the second session as he sat in the pits. When he finally emerged he seemed to be pushing, but he was unable to better his earlier time and finished way down in 11th. Whether his prolonged stay in the pits was a deliberate tactic, or the result of a mechanical problem remains to be seem, although it would be safe to assume that the Ferrari mechanics are in for a busy night.
As usual the Williams-BMWs were the fastest cars down the straights, but their superiority was less pronounced than normal. The layout of the Montreal track was supposed to play to the FW22s strengths, but in the end the blue and white cars were fifth and sixth, in fact Ralf Schumacher shared his best time with Nick Heidfeld in the impressive Sauber.
The German and his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen have gone much better in Canada than they did in Monaco, and both cars were in the top 10 in the morning, although Raikkonen dropped back to 13th in the afternoon. Olivier Panis went very well early on to take fifth in the first session, but dropped back to 10th in the end. Team-mate Jacques Villeneuve had the day's biggest crash, the local favourite heavily damaging his car after it snapped out of control on the exit of Turn Five. The impact tore off the right front wheel, front wing and nose, and he was forced to miss the whole of the second session as a result (spare cars cannot be used on Friday practice).
Another driver to end up in the barrier was Jordan's Heinz-Harald Frentzen. The German had a couple of off track moments throughout the sessions, but his running was curtailed for good after he found himself in the gravel trap with the rear of his car stuffed into the tyres. Minardi's Tarso Marques failed to run any laps in the afternoon, while Jos Verstappen was forced to sit out the morning session while the mechanics worked on his Arrows.
The pace of development in F1 continues unabated, and it was Prost that broke the mould in Canada. The French team ran with a unique two tier front wing set up, and Jean Alesi was 12th and 13th quickest in both sessions, which suggests an improvement.
For once Pedro de la Rosa enjoyed a trouble-free Friday practice. The Spaniard out-paced Eddie in the first session to take 12th place, and although he was down in 14th in the second session, his best time of 1m19.707s was set without the usual aid of fresh tyres.
- Jaguar Racing