Michael Schumacher continued Ferrari's strong start to the season by clocking the fastest time in the first Friday practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix. The reigning champion set a best of 1:32.158, half a second up on teammate Rubens ...
Michael Schumacher continued Ferrari's strong start to the season by clocking the fastest time in the first Friday practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix. The reigning champion set a best of 1:32.158, half a second up on teammate Rubens Barrichello. BAR third driver Anthony Davidson was third, eight tenths off Barrichello, with the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya fractionally behind him.
Track temperature was around 48 degrees with the air temperature some 15 degrees lower. Jordan third driver Timo Glock was first man out on the circuit, followed by most of the field of 25 cars to put in an installation lap. The early running was mostly made by the third drivers, Davidson leading with a 1:36.018, a few seconds off the expected 1:33 bracket predicted for a competitive lap time.
Toyota's Ricardo Zonta was second quickest, followed by team race driver Olivier Panis. Jordan's first race driver out was Giorgio Pantano, fourth fastest, and Ralf Schumacher was the initial man of the front runners, slotting the Williams into second. Jaguar's Bjorn Wirdheim and Minardi's Bas Leinders made up the eight timed drivers on track in the first twenty minutes.
Panis ousted Schumacher from second quickest and Pantano improved to third but the lure of a new track wasn't strong enough to get many drivers into action until about half way through the session. The second Williams of Montoya went straight to the top on his first flyer, 1:34.889, over a second up on Davidson. BAR's Jenson Button took second and Kimi Raikkonen was the first McLaren to hit the track, third fastest.
Michael Schumacher's Ferrari made the expected time zone, posting 1:33.440 to take the lead from Montoya. Raikkonen's teammate David Coulthard made the top eight, as did the Jaguar of Mark Webber. Fernando Alonso was the first Renault on the time sheet, third quickest, while Davidson moved back up to take second. Sauber's Felipe Massa was in the top ten and the second Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello took third from Alonso.
Michael improved his time to 1:32.678, over a second up on Davidson, but was immediately demoted by Barrichello, who clocked 1:32.651, the only two drivers in the 1:32 bracket at the time. Zonta moved up to fourth and further down the times the midfield teams squabbled amongst themselves. Giancarlo Fisichella put his Sauber eighth, the Swiss squad looking on the pace so far on the first day.
Ralf, who had been languishing amongst the backmarkers, improved to seventh and with ten minutes to go only Renault's Jarno Trulli had yet to set a time. The Italian finally made sixth fastest, over two seconds off the Ferraris. The two third drivers, Davidson and Zonta, were closest to the scarlet pair, although still around a second and a half down.
The track temperature climbed to over 50 degrees in the closing stages and Coulthard was the next to improve, up to third. Teammate Raikkonen moved into sixth and Montoya took Coulthard's spot. Takuma Sato made the top eight but it was Davidson who remained the team's fastest driver, taking the popular third slot and closing the gap to Ferrari to within three tenths. Montoya was also in the same time frame but Coulthard was still over a second off.
Michael improved his best to 1:32.158, and Button moved up to fifth, the Michelin runners making a last gasp effort but it was still the Ferrari pair in one and two at the end. Sauber was the next best Bridgestone team, Massa a solid eighth. Raikkonen stopped in the final sector, not a great sign for the Finn who has yet to finish a race.
Ralf and Pantano had minor spins, and a few others had a moment or two, but there were no serious incidents in the first foray onto the new track. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Barrichello, Davidson, Montoya, Button, Coulthard, Zonta, Massa.