Williams-BMW and Michelin served notice that they are in good shape to challenge for a fourth Formula 1 victory of the season when drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya dominated the opening day of the Italian Grand Prix weekend.
Williams-BMW and Michelin served notice that they are in good shape to challenge for a fourth Formula 1 victory of the season when drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya dominated the opening day of the Italian Grand Prix weekend. Schumacher, who has won three grands prix this year, lapped in 1m 24.667s - 0.400s faster than his team-mate. Montoya's chances of matching Ralf's times were compromised when another driver blocked him on a flying lap.
World champion Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Ralf's elder brother, was third fastest.
Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar Racing/Michelin) set fourth fastest time, but his team-mate Eddie Irvine had a difficult day. The Northern Irishman was classified only 19th after spinning into a gravel trap from which he was unable to escape.
Of the remaining Michelin drivers, Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Prost-Acer) was 10th fastest, Giancarlo Fisichella (Benetton Renault Sport) 11th, Jenson Button (Benetton Renault Sport) 13th, Fernando Alonso (European Minardi) 17th, Tomas Enge (Prost-Acer) 20th and Alex Yoong (European Minardi) 22nd.
Enge and Yoong are making history this weekend. They are the first drivers from the Czech Republic and Malaysia, respectively, ever to have competed in the F1 world championship.
MICHELIN'S RACE :
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director) :
Monza and Hockenheim demand similar set-ups. Are the two tracks alike in terms of the effect they have on tyres?
"You can draw a comparison between the two tracks insofar as the strain on the tyre compound is relatively light, although the force exerted on the structure are substantial at high speeds. That said, the Curva Grande and the Parabolica make Monza quite a hard circuit for tyres."
What differences are there between your primary (A) and option (B) tyres?
"The tests we conducted here a few weeks ago proved to be most useful. The two compounds have a different wear rate. We need to study our data more closely, but we already have a fair idea about what we'll be doing. Technically speaking, the two tyres we have here are quite similar. The biggest difference between them is their durability."
The ambient temperature is lower than many had expected. Could that pose a potential problem?
"No, temperature is a secondary consideration for us. We demonstrated at Spa that we can be competitive irrespective of the conditions. When it was cool, and even a little bit wet, we were on the pace."
Traditionally, Monza is a one-stop race with a tyre change at half-distance. Does that change your modus operandum during free practice?
"Yes. If you plan to make a single stop after the halfway point here, it is clear that you will start the race with a very heavy car. And if you don't have clear information about how tyres are going to perform in that situation, you could be in for a few unpleasant surprises. We started out with that in mind and ran with very high fuel loads this morning."
How do you feel about this weekend's race?
"Certainly what's happened means there can be no cause for celebration this weekend, whatever the outcome. Edouard Michelin has set up a fund to help the victims in the United States, a country where the Michelin Group is heavily involved with more than 25,000 employees. That said, perhaps it's right to show our determination to carry on the important human, technical and sporting sides of our activity and thereby underline our free and democratic vision of the world.