RALF AND KIMI HEAD FERRARI PURSUIT World champion Michael Schumacher and Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello got the best of tricky conditions on the opening day of free practice at the Hungaroring, near Budapest. Both men slithered off...
RALF AND KIMI HEAD FERRARI PURSUIT
World champion Michael Schumacher and Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello got the best of tricky conditions on the opening day of free practice at the Hungaroring, near Budapest. Both men slithered off the track during the day and the little-used venue's dusty surface caught out many leading drivers. The best Michelin drivers was Ralf Schumacher, third. "Our Friday tasks went alright, but cannot read too much into the Free practice times, whether you are third or last. We have gone through our set-up programme and we have already made our tyre choice."
Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW/Michelin) put in a late run to pip fellow Michelin driver Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes) to third place. The Michelin challengers face an even tougher fight than usual this weekend. As well as the customarily fast Ferraris, the improving Jordan-Hondas of Takuma Sato and Giancarlo Fisichella were fifth and sixth.
David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) was seventh overall and third of five Michelin runners in the top 10, ahead of Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar, ninth) and Jenson Button (Renault, 10th).
Jarno Trulli (Renault, 11th) was fastest of the other Michelin drivers, from Eddie Irvine (Jaguar, 13th), Mika Salo (Toyota, 15th), Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams-BMW, 16th), Allan McNish (Toyota, 18th), Anthony Davidson (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 19th) and Mark Webber (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 20th).
It has been a difficult day for Montoya, who admits that he does not enjoy driving at this circuit. He spun into a gravel trap while on a hot lap in the closing moments of the session and had to abandon his car. On a brighter note, Davidson's form has been one of the sensations of the meeting so far. Recruited to stand in for Alex Yoong, who is taking a break in an effort to rediscover his confidence after a poor run of results, the 23-year-old Englishman barely put a foot wrong. He slightly outpaced highly-rated team-mate Webber, despite missing part of the first hour of the session because of a transmission problem.
Sauber drivers Nick Heidfeld and Felipe Massa were uninjured after crashing separately at the same spot during the afternoon. There are only 20 cars taking part this weekend because the cash-strapped Arrows team has withdrawn from the event. It hopes to return for the next race at Spa, when it might be under new management.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier -- Motorsport Director
We saw lots of drivers sliding off the track today. The circuit looked very dirty...
"It was. The track evolved during the day and became much cleaner -- but only on the racing line. Even at the end of the session we saw that drivers were running wide onto the grass if they strayed so much as a couple of centimetres off line, where there is no grip at all."
Is it easy evaluating both types of dry-weather tyre in such conditions?
"Not at all -- and you might even say the information we glean is useless because conditions will doubtless have changed a great deal again by tomorrow."
Do your primary (A) and option (B) tyres differ a great deal in terms of performance?
"They do -- and the option seems better suited to the conditions we have seen so far."
We saw David Coulthard returning to the pits with a damaged left rear tyre. Do you know what caused that?
"In fact there was no damage. The tyre was knocked of the rim when he hit the kerb. Sometimes the bead can be on seated like this. When we put pressure back in the tyre it was fine."
Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) and Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes) were your fastest drivers today, in third and fourth places. Are you happy with your performance in general?
"So far, yes. At Magny-Cours we saw that McLaren was on the pace and at Hockenheim it was Williams's turn. From what we have seen so far it looks as though both of them will be very strong this weekend."