MICHELIN MEN HOT ON HEELS OF HOME FAVOURITES The opening day of the Italian Grand Prix proved to be fruitful for Michael Schumacher, who lapped in 1m 22.433s -- 0.225s faster than Barrichello and slightly slower than Juan Pablo Montoya's 2001 ...
MICHELIN MEN HOT ON HEELS OF HOME FAVOURITES
The opening day of the Italian Grand Prix proved to be fruitful for Michael Schumacher, who lapped in 1m 22.433s -- 0.225s faster than Barrichello and slightly slower than Juan Pablo Montoya's 2001 pole position time for Williams-BMW and Michelin. Michelin drivers looked to be in very good shape, however, and monopolised eight cars in the top ten.
Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes, third) was fastest of the Clermont-Ferrand company's challengers ahead of Eddie Irvine (Jaguar, fourth), last year's winner Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams-BMW, fifth), Mika Salo (Toyota, sixth), Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW, seventh), Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar, eighth), Jarno Trulli (Renault, ninth) and Jenson Button (Renault, 10th).
Several drivers -- including Schumacher Jnr -- have ventured down the circuit's numerous escape roads, but so far drivers are trying hard to avoid running wide at the chicanes, where newly-installed sleeping policemen threaten to damage any wayward cars. Jaguar has confirmed that its recent strong testing form at the Milanese track was no fluke and has run competitively all day at a track where its drivers qualified only 10th (de la Rosa) and 13th (Irvine) last season.
There were problems for the remaining four Michelin drivers. David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) was 16th after spinning off at the start of the afternoon session. Allan McNish (Toyota) broke down at the end of the pit lane and was only 18th. KL Minardi-Asiatech drivers Mark Webber and his returning team-mate Alex Yoong expected to struggle at a track that favours strong top-end power. Webber was 19th and Yoong 20th. The Malaysian missed the second part of the session after spinning off.
Once again there are only 20 cars running this weekend because the financially-stricken Arrows team has failed to turn up. Its future remains uncertain and there are many who believe it won't be seen in F1 again.
Michelin's day: Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
What can you tell us about the two dry-weather tyre compounds you are using this weekend?
"In the end we opted to bring one that has already been used several times during the season and is well known to us, while the other is completely new and was selected after some encouraging test here last week. Both of them seem well suited to the track and there is not much difference between then in terms of lap time, although they differ a bit in terms of consistency. From what we have seen so far I expect to see our harder, primary (A) tyre being used more than the softer option (B). That might change if conditions are not the same tomorrow, of course."
You were not fastest today but eight of your cars appeared in the top ten. Were you surprised by anything in particular?
"Not really. I think today's result was pretty much what we expected and, as always on a Friday, the times don't have any real significance because you can't tell who has set a quick time with a reduced fuel load and you don't know which teams have run with fairly full tanks all day."
Did the track evolve much during the first two sessions?
"Enormously. Last night's heavy rainstorm completed cleaned the track and when we first ran this morning the asphalt was very abrasive. It became much less so during the day as cars laid down an increasing amount of rubber."
What track characteristics does a tyre company have to contend with at Monza?
"Generally speaking it is not too abrasive so you don't require too hard a compound. That said, the enormously high straight-line speeds demand a fairly robust construction in order to limit the risk of potential blistering."