McLAREN AND MICHELIN DOMINATE FIRST DAY Michelin and its partner teams had an encouraging first free practice session prior to this weekend's season-closing Japanese Grand Prix. McLaren-Mercedes drivers Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen and David Coulthard set...
McLAREN AND MICHELIN DOMINATE FIRST DAY
Michelin and its partner teams had an encouraging first free practice session prior to this weekend's season-closing Japanese Grand Prix. McLaren-Mercedes drivers Kimi Räikkönen and David Coulthard set the pace and Michelin cars filled seven of the top 10 places. Räikkönen and Coulthard excelled in the recent Belgian GP at Spa, a track that shares many characteristics with Suzuka.
David Coulthard time of 1'34''730 put him second and he did 29 laps : "We are encouraged by our performance today with both types of Michelin tyres working well.We still have some way to go and I'm confident that we can optimise oour package even further." said David
Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team) loves driving at Suzuka and finished second here last season. He was fourth fastest and next best of the Michelin runners, although his day was marred when he crashed heavily with five minutes of the session remaining. The Colombian's FW24 chassis was quite badly damaged but he was unhurt. His team mate Ralf Schumacher achieved the fifth best time.
"I had a good free practice session where we tried all that was scheduled and we have also made some progress with regards to the tyres choice. I am quite happy with the balance of my car." said Ralf. Schumacher Jnr had a quick spin in the second part of the session but did not damage his car. Apart from the last minutes when Juan Pablo Montoya went off the track and crashed into the barriers, it was quite a positive free practice session for the BMW WillliamsF1 Team for the last race of the season " All in all we are happy with today's performance. A normal Friday programme working on race set-up. The tyres choice will be difficult as Michelin have brought two good compounds here so we have to analyse the data later on and see which tyre is better." said Sam Michaël (Chief Operations Engineer, WilliamsF1.)
The other Michelin runners in the top 10 were Eddie Irvine (Jaguar, seventh), Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar, eighth) and Jarno Trulli (Renault, ninth).
Mika Salo (Toyota, 11th) led the remaining Michelin drivers, ahead of Jenson Button (Renault, 12th) Allan McNish (Toyota, 14th), Mark Webber (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 18th) and Alex Yoong (KL Minari-Asiatech, 22nd). Yoong missed the final half-hour after his engine blew up. He coasted back to the pits, where a small fire at the rear of the car was swiftly extinguished.
Jacques Villeneuve (BAR-Honda) had a major accident early in the morning when he spun at the exit of Turn 14 and smashed into the barriers on both sides of the track. His team had the car repaired with 15 minutes to run, however, and he was 19th fastest.
Michelin's day: Pascal Vasselon, Formula One project manager
Michelin partner West McLaren Mercedes set the fastest two times today and there were seven Michelin cars in the top 10. What were your impressions of the opening free practice session?
"It's easy to be positive when things go as well as they have done today. Even though Friday sessions do not always foretell what might happen for the rest of the weekend, we seem to be in good shape and got through lots of useful work with both the dry-weather compounds we have brought to this race. We did lots of comparison tests and completed a number of long runs with differing fuel loads. This has allowed teams to take a good look at tyre performance and durability and will help give them a clear idea of which compound will most suit them."
What differences are there between your primary (A) and option (B) tyres?
"They share the same method of construction but the compounds are different. They appear to be quite close in terms of performance and endurance."
One of the two compounds Michelin is using this weekend is a new development. Has its performance fulfilled your expectations?
"Yes, it has. The results correspond with what we saw during recent tests in Barcelona. Suzuka is very abrasive, which is partly due to its layout, partly to the nature of the surface, but we had no problems with our wear rates on a track that evolved considerably during the day. It offered much more grip this afternoon than it did this morning."
Is it clear whether teams are likely to opt for primary or option tyres in tomorrow's qualifying session?
"Given that both tyres worked very well, I think teams will be split. When tyres are similar in terms of pace and durability it tends to be the driver who makes the final decision, according to his personal preference for handling characteristics, chassis balance and tyre stability."