Both Jaguars in the top ten as Trulli breaks Ferrari's stranglehold. By Adam Cooper A grand prix Friday doesn't always follow the form book, and at Sepang it was a pleasant surprise to both see a change at the front and a very strong opening day...
Both Jaguars in the top ten as Trulli breaks Ferrari's stranglehold. By Adam Cooper
A grand prix Friday doesn't always follow the form book, and at Sepang it was a pleasant surprise to both see a change at the front and a very strong opening day performance from Jaguar Racing.
Teams and drivers had to adapt to high temperatures, and it was apparent from the amount of slipping and sliding that tyres will be a key issue this weekend.
The usual Ferrari/McLaren dominance was spoiled when Jarno Trulli topped the times for Jordan. The Italian's best of 1m38.846s eclipsed Michael Schumacher by just 0.083s. While Friday does not always provide the true picture, it was a reminder that the new Jordan-Honda package is strong.
The two silver cars were split by the green of Eddie Irvine's Jaguar R2, the Ulsterman recording 1m39.520s to go fifth. Last year he qualified seventh, and coming to this race was very confident of a good performance. Significantly, he was also quickest Michelin runner, nearly 1.1s faster than the Williams of Ralf Schumacher.
"We seem to be more competitive here," he said. "But our car seems to go well here, it went well last year and the year before. These guys work well here. We were doing a programme we had to do. We're not going to be in the same position tomorrow, but we're going to be more competitive here than in Melbourne."
Although rivals were a little sceptical, Eddie's good time was achieved despite a series of problems that did not make his life easier. Power steering problems didn't stop Irvine taking fifth
"We had a lot of problems in that session - clutch, power steering, car - too many problems. We didn't get all the things done that we needed to get done. We got a good indication of where we need to go. But the handling of the car is far from good. I don't know what the problem is."
The team's good form was emphasised by eighth place for Luciano Burti, behind Hakkinen and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. After his disappointments in Australia the Brazilian was happy to get through the day without major dramas. His total of 37 laps was bettered only by Trulli (39) and Jean Alesi (40).
"Of course it's not too bad. The main thing today was to learn the track and choose the tyres for the weekend. I think I managed to do that. Of course we don't know what other people are doing, so it's difficult to tell if that's as fast as they can go. I'm sure my best comparison is against Eddie, and I seem to be in the ballpark, so I'm happy with that."
Luciano confirmed that it had not proved easy to get the handling right for the tricky Sepang track.
"It's not sliding that much, but it's very difficult to get a good balance. That's the main thing for tomorrow, to get a good balance. Grip level is not a big issue."
The top 10 was completed by the BAR of Olivier Panis and the Williams of Ralf Schumacher. There were no real surprises further back, although Juan Pablo Montoya was last in the other Williams after fuel pump problems prevented him from completing a flying lap.
- Jaguar Racing