COULTHARD AND MICHELIN SET EARLY PACE David Coulthard, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz and Michelin made a flying start to the Grand Prix of Europe on the opening day of free practice. The Scot, winner of this season's Monaco GP, maintained his recent ...
COULTHARD AND MICHELIN SET EARLY PACE
David Coulthard, McLaren, Mercedes-Benz and Michelin made a flying start to the Grand Prix of Europe on the opening day of free practice. The Scot, winner of this season's Monaco GP, maintained his recent run of form with a 1m 31.886s lap that put him 0.15 5 seconds clear of world championship leader - and local favourite - Michael Schumacher (Ferrari).
"A normal Friday practice session where we evaluated our tyres and various set-ups. We went through our pre-planned programme but as illustrated before Ferrari and Willilams might be quicker tomorrow, but we will wait and see." said David.
Michaël who holds a 43-point series lead with nine of this year's 17 races still to run, is seeking to stretch his record-breaking tally of F1 wins to 60 this weekend. As is customary on the Friday of a grand prix weekend, most teams concentrated on fine-tuning their race set-ups.
Michelin drivers performed strongly throughout the day and took seven of the top 10 positions. Coulthard's team-mate Kimi Räikkönen was third, ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, fifth), "It hasn't been a very positive day for me as I am still struggling with the balance of the car. I also had a problem with an exhaust, which I experienced halfway through the second session which hampered my work."said the Colombia Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) finished sixth, Jarno Trulli (Renault F1, seventh), Jenson Button (Renault, eighth) and Mika Salo (Panasonic Toyota Racing, ninth). Salo's progress was interrupted when he spun on a new section of track that has replaced the old first tur
It is the first time Formula One cars have run in anger at the Nürburgring since the track was revised. The old, medium-speed Castrol chicane has been axed in favour of a four-corner sequence including a tight, right-hand hairpin that will require drivers to be ultra-careful at the start of Sunday's 60-lap race. Lap times have increased considerably following the revisions: last season Michael Schumacher posted a 1m 14.960s to take pole position and Montoya (Williams-BMW/Michelin) recorded the fastest race lap, a 1m 18.354s.
Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar, 14th) was quickest of the remaining Michelin runners, ahead of Allan McNish (Toyota, 18th), Mark Webber (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 20th), Eddie Irvine (Jaguar, 21st) and Alex Yoong (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 22nd). Webber was briefly delayed when he ran wide through a gravel trap; Yoong was forced to cut his session short because of a suspected engine problem.
Michelin's day, Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
David Coulthard set the fastest time of the day on Michelin tyres and seven of your cars were among the top 10. It has been a productive free practice session?
"Very much so, but there is still much we have to learn. All our teams have done plenty of laps with different compound tyres and varying fuel loads. They have accumulated lots of vital data but we must analysis all the data this evening and again tomorrow morning, during the final free practice. The track was very 'green', as is usually the case at the start of a race weekend, and that was particularly true of the new sequence of corners at the start of the lap."
What can you tell us about the two compounds you have brought here this weekend?
"Both our primary (A) and option (B) tyre have been specifically developed for the Nürburgring, although they are quite different in terms of compound. Our option tyre is quite ambitious and I am fascinated to know how it might fare in the race. From what we have seen today I think it is quite feasible that both tyres will be used on Sunday."
Did the brief rain shower this morning interrupt your preparations?
"Not really. The track evolved fairly normally and I think it will continue to do so throughout the weekend - if it doesn't rain, which cannot be guaranteed at the Nürburgring."
Is this a particularly tough track for tyre manufacturers?
"It doesn't cause too many problems because none of the corners places too great a strain on tyres and there are no ultra-long, high-speed straights, unlike the last race in Montreal."
This has traditionally been a two-stop race. Will the new track layout affect that?
"It might. I think it will probably still be a two-stopper, but it is possible that some teams will opt to refuel and change tyres only once. We have yet to establish whether the benefit of new tyres outweighs the penalty of a heavier fuel load around the revised, longer lap."