McLaren third driver Pedro de la Rosa led the way in the first free practice session for the San Marino Grand Prix with a best time of 1:21.060. In what was an average Friday morning, Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta was second fastest, just over...
McLaren third driver Pedro de la Rosa led the way in the first free practice session for the San Marino Grand Prix with a best time of 1:21.060. In what was an average Friday morning, Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta was second fastest, just over a tenth down, and the BAR of Jenson Button was third.
The weather was dry and sunny at the start of the session with a track temperature of 25 degrees. Most teams have some car upgrades this weekend; Ferrari is running a new front wing and many others have new aero packages. Minardi now has the same Cosworth engine as Red Bull and Giancarlo Fisichella is using the new B spec Renault RS25 engine.
De la Rosa, who is back to third driver duties after his weekend in the race seat at Bahrain, was first to set a time, 1:24.994. He was followed by Zonta and the McLaren man dropped his time to 1:24.006, leaving Zonta nearly two seconds astray. Christian Klien is in Red Bull's third driver seat this weekend, as Tonio Liuzzi gets his race chance, and he joined in third.
Jordan No.3 Robert Doornbos followed into fourth but they were the only active drivers in the first 20 minutes. Zonta closed the gap to de la Rosa to seven tenths but was demoted by Michael Schumacher's Ferrari taking second by a tenth or so quicker. The Jordan of Narain Karthikeyan made it six on the time sheet and Michael improved to take the top slot, 1:23.583 for half a second up.
Liuzzi slotted in to fourth and Karthikeyan moved one ahead of Doornbos for fifth. Michael improved again, 1:22.858, to widen the gap from de la Rosa to over a second. Liuzzi dropped his time steadily but stayed fourth and Jordan's Tiago Monteiro joined in ninth. De la Rosa closed the distance to Schumacher to eight tenths but everyone else aside from Zonta in third was over two seconds off the Ferrari.
Karthikeyan moved up to fourth and de la Rosa closed again to within seven tenths of Michael. Minardi's Patrick Friesacher made it into 10th and his teammate Christijan Albers was 11th. Rubens Barrichello posted 10th on his first effort but then wound the Ferrari up to fourth, and Sauber's Felipe Massa posted a notable third on his initial flyer.
Zonta took the position off him shortly afterwards and Monteiro improved to eighth. Kimi Raikkonen was the first McLaren race driver out for a timed lap and posted second, just a tenth down on Michael. Barrichello, meanwhile, had an off-track excursion into the gravel at Tamburello. Alex Wurz, McLaren's test driver who is making his race debut for the team this weekend, took fourth.
Mark Webber was the first Williams to set a time, 13th, then moved up to eighth, while Wurz improved to third. Nick Heidfeld put his Williams 14th to start with and de la Rosa rocketed to the top with a 1:21.212, over a second and a half faster than Michael. Heidfeld climbed to fifth and Klien to third, while Albers moved ahead of Friesacher for 15th.
David Coulthard started with a leisurely 15th in the Red Bull and Michael improved his time to within nine tenths of de la Rosa. Zonta took third, a second off the lead Ferrari and the rest were over 1.5 down. Barrichello moved up to seventh after being shuffled down the order, Liuzzi to eighth and Coulthard to ninth.
Jacques Villeneuve put his Sauber 16th and with 10 minutes to go BAR, Toyota and Renault had yet to put in any fliers. Massa worked his way back up to 11th after being moved down and Villeneuve improved to 13th. De la Rosa dropped his time 1:21.060 and Button put in an appearance for fifth. He then moved up to second but was immediately demoted by Zonta, the Toyota within two tenths of de la Rosa.
Webber improved to ninth and Takuma Sato idled about at the back in his BAR, as did the Toyota of Ralf Schumacher, while Heidfeld moved back up to seventh. Sato followed into eighth and Massa, who was being shuffled down the times as quick as he was lapping, posted 14th. Sato climbed a couple of places to sixth and at the end of the session the two Renaults and Toyota's Jarno Trulli had not set a time.
In this initial foray, BAR seemed to have more pace than previously and McLaren looked confident. Michael was competitive but Barrichello appeared to be struggling, while Williams was reasonably in the top ten. However, Friday is not necessarily a good indicator of form so it remains to be seen what will develop. Final top eight classification: De la Rosa, Zonta, Button, M. Schumacher, Klien, Sato, Raikkonen, Heidfeld.