McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa was the usual suspect at the top of the time sheet in the first practice session for the French Grand Prix, the team's third driver setting a best of 1:14.778. He was followed by the pair of Renaults, Fernando Alonso ...
McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa was the usual suspect at the top of the time sheet in the first practice session for the French Grand Prix, the team's third driver setting a best of 1:14.778. He was followed by the pair of Renaults, Fernando Alonso second, four tenths down, and Giancarlo Fisichella third, a few hundredths behind his teammate.
The third drivers led out for installation laps; Jordan's Robert Doornbos, Olivier Panis, who is behind the wheel for Toyota today, and de la Rosa. Also on track quickly were the Minardis of Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher, Jordan race drivers Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan and the Sauber of Jacques Villeneuve.
Within five minutes three quarters of the field had put in a lap but it was a little while longer before anyone set a time. Panis was first up with a 1:20.563 but was quickly demoted by de la Rosa's 1:19.474. Panis retaliated to clock 1:18.496 and de la Rosa came back with 1:17.255. Liuzzi interrupted their little squabble to join in third.
Doornbos made it four to set a time but it was not exactly an active first half hour, although everyone bar Toyota's Ralf Schumacher had been out for an installation lap. Albers joined the time sheet in fifth and teammate Friesacher in sixth, while de la Rosa improved his time to 1:16.918 to leave Panis well over a second down.
Monteiro started with seventh and Karthikeyan took sixth, and de la Rosa improved again to 1:16.764. Karthikeyan went up to third and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen clocked second on his first effort, eight tenths down on de la Rosa. Monteiro went sideways over the kerbs in the last chicane and tried to crawl back to the pits with suspension damage, but didn't make it.
Raikkonen took over at the top, 1:16.430, and Michael Schumacher put his Ferrari third on his first flyer. The Williams of Mark Webber clocked fourth and teammate Nick Hiedfeld took sixth, then BAR's Jenson Button snatched the fourth spot. Juan Pablo Montoya slotted his McLaren into fifth, Button improved to third and Heidfeld took over fifth.
De la Rosa returned to the top with a 1:14.919 and Montoya followed into second, over a second down, making it a McLaren one-two-thee. Takuma Sato's BAR posted ninth and the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello joined in 13th, while de la Rosa dropped his time to 1:14.778. Fisichella was the first Renault to set a time and clocked second, 1.5 down.
Sato improved to seventh and Barrichello to eighth, then Panis, who had been shuffled down the times, moved up to fifth. Alonso started with a lowly 13th then jumped up to second, nearly nine tenths off de la Rosa and just fractionally ahead of teammate Fisichella. Christian Klien put his Red Bull 13th initially then improved to 10th.
In the final 10 minutes David Coulthard's Red Bull clocked 13th and Villeneuve joined in 20th. Albers improved to 18th and Villeneuve to 15th, while further up the times Button moved into fourth. Raikkonen posted sixth after being moved down the order and Fisichella took over second, half a second off de la Rosa.
Heidfeld went up to eighth and Raikkonen one more to fifth, then Alonso took the second slot off Fisichella and closed the gap to de la Rosa to four tenths. Sato improved to fourth and Sauber's Felipe Massa initially clocked 17th. Ralf Schumacher managed 15th on his first flyer but was demoted by Massa taking the spot.
Ralf then climbed first to 11th and then 9th, and that was pretty much the end of the session. Toyota's Jarno Trulli did not set a time. As usual, there are no real conclusions to be drawn from an average Friday morning practice. Final top eight classification: De la Rosa, Alonso, Fisichella, Sato, Raikkonen, Button, Panis, Montoya.