Sepang, Malaysia, October 15, 1999 - Seven minutes remained in the second hour of free practice today when Jacques Villeneuve emerged for a last lap of the brand-new Sepang International Circuit. One minute, 42.407 seconds later, British American...
Sepang, Malaysia, October 15, 1999 - Seven minutes remained in the second hour of free practice today when Jacques Villeneuve emerged for a last lap of the brand-new Sepang International Circuit. One minute, 42.407 seconds later, British American Racing had the first "first" in the team's history, as the Canadian turned in the best time on the day in preparation for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.
Conversely, Ricardo Zonta experienced a troublesome first day at the circuit, suffering several problems which prevented him from doing more than fifteen laps in total. In spite of this, and a clutch failure in the afternoon session, he finished 17th with a time of 1:44.968, lopping off 16 seconds from his morning time.
David Coulthard (McLaren) finished the day in second place (1:42.519), with Sauber's Jean Alesi (1:42.701) in third. Michael Schumacher, driving at a Grand Prix for the first time since his accident at Silverstone in July, was the other story of the day, turning in the best time of the morning session before settling in fifth (1:42.875), just behind his Ferrari teammate, Eddie Irvine, in the afternoon (142.725).
The morning session was run on a wet track, and conditions were drier in the afternoon. Sunday's race will be the first-ever on the 15-turn, 5.542 km (3.444 miles) facility that opened earlier this year.
JACQUES VILLENEUVE - 1:42.407 - 1st "The car was like a little bit of magic today, but we need to do the same on Saturday when we will have learned more about the limits of the circuit. We worked very hard on finding a good set-up this morning, and it turned out well this afternoon. The track is very nice to drive on, but it has some very demanding corners where it's difficult to find the braking points. The surface is also slicker than I expected it would be, but still fun. I've been in Malaysia for 10 days so I'm acclimatised, but it's still very hot.
RICARDO ZONTA - 1:44.968 - 17th "It's great that Jacques set the fastest time because it proves that our car can be very good here. It's disappointing for me though, because with all the stoppages, I was never able to get into a rhythm, or to go for quick times. This morning an exhaust valve went on the engine shortly after I went out, and this afternoon the clutch failed. So not good today, but I shall be chasing Jacques on Saturday."
CRAIG POLLOCK, Chairman & CEO, British American Racing "It's nice to be on top at a circuit where we all started from the same level - none of the teams comes with any base information. Things have been coming together throughout the year and this is a reflection of our growing strength. The team has done, and continues to do, a fantastic job. I sympathise with Ricardo who was affected by many problems that prevented him from performing up to his usual level, today."
JOCK CLEAR, Jacques Villeneuve's Race Engineer "We shouldn't jump to conclusions because there's a long way to go yet, but ever since he came to Formula One, Jacques has taken pole position at all the new circuits--Melbourne in 1996 where he finished second, and Austria in 1997 where he won from pole position. It would be nice to keep the record consistent and we'll be working towards that on Saturday."