Jean Alesi commenced his final weekend as a Formula One driver by setting the fastest time in practice at the wheel of his Benson and Hedges Jordan Honda. The 37 year old Frenchman was over half a second clear of the second placed Williams of Juan...
Jean Alesi commenced his final weekend as a Formula One driver by setting the fastest time in practice at the wheel of his Benson and Hedges Jordan Honda. The 37 year old Frenchman was over half a second clear of the second placed Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya, his yellow Jordan-Honda EJ11 slicing around the ultra quick Suzuka circuit in 1m35.454s with ten minutes of second practice remaining.
"It cannot be better for my last Friday than to be first," said a delighted Alesi after returning to the Jordan garage. "I enjoyed the session. Straight away this morning the car had a very good level balance. With my race engineer we made a good performance possible - the car was good to drive."
Asked whether today's time was more to do with having fun than preparing the car for Sunday's race - and therefore perhaps not running as much fuel as is usually the case on a Friday - Alesi gave a typically huge smile: "I always have fun, I'm never serious...!"
Montoya's second fastest time of 1m35.977s put him ahead of Pedro de la Rosa's Jaguar, Mika Hakkinen's McLaren and Heinz Harald Frentzen's Prost, de la Rosa and Frentzen likely to have copied Alesi in running with a lower fuel load than, say, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello who were 8th and 10th respectively in their Ferraris.
Jarno Trulli was 11th quickest in the second Jordan-Honda, the Italian working to find a good race set-up.
"It was a good session without too many problems," he commented. "We worked on set-up for race conditions and I must say the car is pretty well balanced. I am quite confident for tomorrow. We tried to improve the rear of the car, working particularly on traction."
With Tomas Enge having suffered a high speed crash in his Prost during the morning's first practice session, the second one hour period was similarly affected when Nick Heidfeld had a high speed accident in his Sauber. The young German was unhurt, but his car was very badly damaged and resulted in a ten minute stoppage.