The first day of practice for the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix, penultimate round of the 2004 Formula One World Championship, turned out to be a decidedly soggy affair, courtesy of a typhoon moving in from the south of the country. Heavy rain set in...
The first day of practice for the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix, penultimate round of the 2004 Formula One World Championship, turned out to be a decidedly soggy affair, courtesy of a typhoon moving in from the south of the country.
Heavy rain set in prior to the opening morning session, thoroughly soaking the Suzuka area and causing many teams to keep their running time to a minimum. Minardi Cosworth drivers, Gianmaria Bruni, Zsolt Baumgartner and regular Friday tester, Bas Leinders, all went out in the morning, however, in order both to gain experience of the challenging Japanese circuit and to assess the slippery conditions.
The rain continued to fall heavily during the afternoon session, with grip and visibility remaining at a premium. In common with other teams, Minardi personnel will be hoping for an improvement in the weather tomorrow so they can progress with their normal technical preparations, but with the typhoon forecast to swing close to the Suzuka area, Formula One is in the hands of Mother Nature.
"This was my very first experience of driving in the wet with an F1 car as well as my first time driving on the Suzuka Circuit, and I am very pleased with what I discovered. The car seems to have quite a lot of grip in the wet, and I really enjoy driving in the rain anyway. I'm not at the limit of the car yet -- I would need more mileage to arrive at that point -- but it has been a good start to building my knowledge of driving in the wet in Formula One."
"It was not a very good day, as I didn't have the possibility to drive enough. I did just one proper run, but the balance in the wet was quite good, as my lap times show. Now we can only see what tomorrow holds."
"The weather situation today was a bit unfortunate in terms of having an opportunity to learn the track. Generally, the car balance was good, but we were struggling with the huge amount of water on the track. In fact, when I spun during the second session, it had started to rain even harder and the conditions were pretty much impossible."
Paul Stoddart, Team Principal:
"In what can only be described as extreme weather conditions, all three Minardi drivers did a very creditable job today, Bas got to grips relatively quickly with the conditions and set the fastest time of the three, while Zsolt had a minor 'off' at the point when the rain was falling at its heaviest and the level of standing water had increased tremendously."
"In fact, several cars spun off at turn six, which brought a premature end to the afternoon session. With the forecast calling for more heavy weather tomorrow, we could be in for a very interesting race on Sunday."
Bas Leinders, test driver
Chassis: PS04B/03 (Spare)
Best lap: 1 min 52.942 secs
Chassis: PS04B/02 (No.20)
Best lap: 1 min 53.194 secs
Chassis: PS04B/04 (No.21)
Best lap: 1 min 54.703 secs