Sauber's Felipe Massa put in a convincing performance in the second Friday practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix and set the fastest time of 1:35.608. He was 1.5 seconds slower than the best time of Toyota's Ricardo Zonta in the first session.
Sauber's Felipe Massa put in a convincing performance in the second Friday practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix and set the fastest time of 1:35.608. He was 1.5 seconds slower than the best time of Toyota's Ricardo Zonta in the first session. Following Massa in the afternoon were McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya in second and Zonta in third. The trio were separated by just seven hundredths of a second.
The track temperature was up to the mid fifties for the start of the session and Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan was first to set a time, swiftly followed by Toyota and McLaren third drivers Zonta and Pedro de la Rosa. Zonta was initially fastest, 1:36.915. Tiago Monteiro and third driver Robert Doornbos were also quickly on track for Jordan, along with the pair of Minardis, Christijan Albers leading Patrick Friesacher.
Christian Klien led out for Red Bull and took second, eight tenths off Zonta, then Massa put his Sauber to the top, 1:36.700. David Coulthard and third driver Vitantonio Liuzzi took fifth and sixth respectively for Red Bull, then the McLaren of Montoya moved into sixth. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen had a short-lived start when he spun into the gravel heading for turn nine.
Toyota's Jarno Trulli clocked 13th on his first flyer and then improved to third, while Jenson Button put his BAR to the top, 1:35.992 for seven tenths up on Massa. Michael Schumacher was first out for Ferrari and took sixth but teammate Rubens Barrichello followed Raikkonen's lead and also took a trip into the gravel. There was a brief yellow flag period before the practice got under way again.
De la Rosa improved his time to sixth and Massa's next effort saw him return to the top with a 1:35.608, four tenths up on Button. BAR's Takuma Sato posted eighth and Doornbos moved up to 12th to lead the trio of Jordans. Villenevue's first effort put his Sauber 12th then he climbed one place on his next flyer. Coulthard jumped up to third and Monteiro took over as the lead Jordan.
Ralf Schumacher put his Toyota 13th and Giancarlo Fisichella was the first Renault to make an appearance today. The winner of Melbourne clocked seventh on his initial flyer, while Nick Heidfeld was the first Williams to set a time in this session, 12th. Another yellow flag period followed when Liuzzi ditched his Red Bull in the gravel at turn 14 after a suspension failure.
Once the track got the green light Fernando Alonso hurled his Renault up to fourth. Villeneuve, who was up and down the midfield, clocked 15th and Karthikeyan improved to 16th. Zonta remained at the sharp end and posted third, while Heidfeld was made slow but steady progress up to 10th. Sato, who had been shuffled down the order, returned to eighth but was immediately replaced by de la Rosa.
Montoya, who had been idling outside the top ten, shot up to second just one hundredth behind Massa and Barrichello managed to return to the track to post third. He was quickly demoted by Fisichella and the times were much closer heading into the last 10 minutes. Ralf took over the popular third slot and Alonso moved back up the order to seventh. Mark Webber, meanwhile, was still in the Williams garage.
There was little activity in the final minutes; Michael was down in the midfield and clocked 15th after running a bit wide at turn nine. The end of the session was marked by Zonta improving to third and Raikkonen making a last gasp return to post fourth. Klien's Red Bull came to halt on track in the last sector with an electronic glitch and Webber did not set a time due to a gearbox problem.
A mixed session for Sauber, with Massa putting in a good performance to hold on to the top of the times but Villeneuve was back down in 18th. The team put the distance between them down to different tyres and fuel loads.
"At the moment we are not 100% sure where we are, and this was just a Friday, but it's encouraging," said Massa. "We still have a lot more work to do to improve the car and consistency on long runs, but right from the first time I drove the C24 I knew we had a car that can fight for points."
McLaren looked strong with both cars in the top four while Renault and Toyota showed good pace. "We did a good job on the long runs today and were able to carry out a useful comparison between the two tyre compounds to assess their performance and consistency," said Toyota's Zonta.
Ferrari was also split: Barrichello managed seventh after his return to the track but Michael was 16th at the end. "We worked mainly on a comparison test of the two types of Bridgestone tyre available to us," said Jean Todt. "Here in Malaysia, tyres will play an even more key role than usual."
BAR and Red Bull seemed not too far off the front runners while Williams was less than expected. Jordan and Minardi rounded off the times, so no change there. There were a fair few off track excursions, although none serious, and the top ten were much closer this afternoon, separated by just under a second. Final top eight classification: Massa, Montoya, Zonta, Raikkonen, R. Schumacher, Fisichella, Barrichello, Button.