French GP Free Practice notes

Take your pick - Lycée, 180° Hairpin or Shortcuts? By Erica Southey - The sessions could be categorised as follows: 180° hairpin, Lycée, mechanical failure and surprise-surprise! The BMW-Williams of Ralf Schumacher stalled...

Take your pick - Lycée, 180° Hairpin or Shortcuts?

By Erica Southey -

The sessions could be categorised as follows: 180° hairpin, Lycée, mechanical failure and surprise-surprise!

The BMW-Williams of Ralf Schumacher stalled which forced him back to the garage. The scare was soon over, when Ralf came out on track. It didn't last however, Ralf's session ended when some sort of mechanical failure forced him to park the Williams at Adelaide. He opted to test the new BMW C1 enclosed scooter instead, taking a ride back to the pits in the latest frenzy of two wheeled wonders. Teammate Juan Pablo Montoya had better fortune in the first session by clocking one of the fastest times early in this session, consistently staying in the top six and continuing this good show throughout the second session. Indeed Montoya is on a mission!

It was a different story altogether for Eddie Irvine in the Jaguar and ex-teammate Luciano Burti in the Prost. Both spun at the 180° hairpin with different results. Irvine's first free practice session was over while Burti was fortunate to slide over the gravel and rejoin the track, but later parked at Lycée with some sort of problem. Jenson Button couldn't resist the 180° invitation and added his Benetton to the list of victims. The second session saw Olivier Panis spin off at this well-frequented hairpin putting an end to his session altogether. Jarno Trulli in the Jordan joined the spinners club by spinning of in Lycée right after clocking the second best time in first free practice. Michael Schumacher added his signature to Lycée when he went off there, but with little consequence. Montoya also wrestled with this popular hairpin countersteering his Williams through it, while Rubens Barrichello tried his own version of off-road testing at the Nurburgring chicane by cutting across it. Barrichello tried sidestepping Lycée by going wide in the second session? In the closing stages of the first session, it was the Arrows of Enrique Bernoldi who was seen stationery with some sort of problem. Both practice sessions surely tested the off-road handling capabilities of the cars and no doubt the reconstructing skills of the race engineers.

Mika Häkkinen kept setting the fastest times of the first session while the Williams, Ferraris and Jordan of Trulli hounded the solitary McLaren. David Coulthard could only manage seventh spot at one stage but soon made his presence felt when he jumped to third.

For the rest of the pack the first session was uneventful giving the likes of Tarso Marques and Jos Verstappen a breather from previous mechanical or incident prone practice sessions. The second session however put a cruel end to Verstappen's last minute check-ups before qualifying, because his engine blew spewing smoke like a steam locomotive.

The Saubers of Kimi Raikkonen and Nick Heidfeld were just outside the top ten, but they challenged all the way for better positions. Raikkonen's second session was all but satisfying because he crashed when coming off the pit exit, losing the rear end of the car, making contact with the gravel discarding the front wing, luckily turning the Sauber sideways to avoid impact. The BARs of Jacques Villeneuve and Olivier Panis were consistently finishing in the top ten while Fernando Alonso in the Minardi finished 15th which was a good change from the usual 21st or 22nd spot.

The second session saw Villeneuve outwitting all and putting the BAR in the top position to make it three World Driver Champions in a row with Hakkinen and Schumacher Snr behind him. What a great achievement for a mid order constructor to displace the best. Coulthard put an end to Villeneuve's dominance by displacing him into second place followed by Irvine who put Villeneuve yet another spot down the order. The line-up had a few surprising drivers featuring in the top 10 like Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa with Coulthard topping the second session. Will the McLarens be able to follow through their dominance till the end of the race or will we see a surprise podium appearance by Villeneuve?


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , Minardi , Jordan