West McLaren-Mercedes set the pace - Five Michelin drivers in the top six The Michelin-shod West McLaren-Mercedes team bounced back from a slow start to set the pace on the opening day of practice for this weekend^Ã’s Malaysian Grand Prix. In...
West McLaren-Mercedes set the pace - Five Michelin drivers in the top six
The Michelin-shod West McLaren-Mercedes team bounced back from a slow start to set the pace on the opening day of practice for this weekend^Òs Malaysian Grand Prix. In his second race for the team, young Finn Kimi Räikkönen was only 14th after the first of two 60-minute sessions, but he lapped in 1m 37.399s during the second -- 0.854 seconds faster than team-mate David Coulthard. The Scot completed relatively few laps during the day, however. He didn't manage a flying lap in the first session, because of an engine problem, and was then delayed by a spin when he returned to the track in the afternoon. Räikkönen also spun off at one point, but neither McLaren was seriously damaged as a result of their off-course excursions.
Defending world champion and Australian GP winner Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) set third fastest time as he began his quest to complete a hat trick of victories in Malaysia. His team is once again using its still-competitive 2001 chassis and won't introduce the new one until it is fully satisfied with reliability.
BMW WilliamsF1 Team-Michelin drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya both spun twice during the day, although they recovered to set fourth and sixth fastest times. They were split by Mika Salo^Òs (Panasonic Toyota Racing-Michelin), which again showed a good turn of speed after scoring a point on the team's F1 debut in Melbourne two weeks earlier.Renault drivers Jenson Button and Jarno Trulli were eighth and ninth fastest as Michelin-equipped cars filled seven of the top 10 positions.
Of the other Michelin runners, Allan McNish (Toyota, 11th) was the last driver to begin running in earnest after a technical problem delayed him during the morning. Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar Racing, 12th) also ran into difficulties and was forced to pull of the track towards the end of the afternoon session. Alex Yoong (KL Minardi Asiatech) was 19th as he prepared for his first GP on home soil, Eddie Irvine was 20th in the second Jaguar and Mark Webber came back to earth with a bump following his heroic, points-scoring drive in Melbourne. The Australian never got up to speed after spinning off in the first session and suffering an engine problems at the start of the second
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
The Michelin runners appeared to be more than two the seconds off the pace this morning but proved to be the class of the field this afternoon, when the track was faster. They set the top two times and you had seven cars in the top 10. How do you explain that? "As I have said many times, you can't draw firm conclusions from what happens on a Friday. There are two major factors behind what happened today. Firstly, the nature of the track changed a great deal, which you would expect. Although this is a permanent circuit, it isn't used a great deal and was very dirty at the start of the day. That tends to take its toll on tyres because initially the cars slide around a lot. Secondly, you never know whether a team is doing low-fuel runs at the start of the day, when the track is slower, or at the end, when conditions have improved. And you don't know exactly how much fuel they have in when they put on new tyres. Drivers who were very quick today will be fast again tomorrow, I am sure, but equally there will be others who improve significantly during qualifying, when things really matter. Today we can analyse technical issues, but not ultimate performance."
There has been a lot of talk about Michelin tyre developments in the past two weeks. "The tyres we are using this weekend are different in terms of construction and cmpound from those we ran two weeks ago in Melbourne, but this is just normal; part of an ongoing development process that is based on all the data we have accrued so far. It will continue like that until the end of the season and there will be more changes to come as we consult with our teams and pick up extra information."
Is there a big difference here between your primary (A) and option (B) tyres? "There is in terms of construction and compound, but there doesn't seem to be much in it in terms of lap times. Will it be hard deciding which to use for the race? It is too early to say. We haven't yet had a chance to analyse all the relevant data."
Kimi Räikkönen began his career with McLaren and Michelin in fine style by finishing third in Melbourne. What did you make of his pace-setting performance today? "I was impressed. He looked fast and very consistent. He did a good job all day."