McLaren ahead after Belgian GP practices

McLaren and Ferrari traded the top slots in Friday's free practices for the Belgian Grand Pix, with Ferrari ahead after the first session and McLaren taking over for the second. Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time at the end of the day, a...

McLaren and Ferrari traded the top slots in Friday's free practices for the Belgian Grand Pix, with Ferrari ahead after the first session and McLaren taking over for the second. Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time at the end of the day, a 1:47.196, nearly two seconds ahead of Rubens Barrichello's top time of the previous session.

Fog delayed the morning practice as the medical helicopter was unable to take off and eventually a shortened half-hour run took place starting at noon. Michael Schumacher initially held sway from Barrichello but the Brazilian snatched the fastest time in the final minutes. McLaren were not far behind and had sufficiently warmed up to take over in the second session.

With little time in the early practice there were no surprises -- although Arrows are present at Spa, sole driver Enrique Bernoldi failed to take to the track. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was a nominated driver but it appears only to allow the team entry as the German's manager yesterday said Frentzen would not be racing. It's expected an announcement will be made today concerning the American investor who has been in negotiations with the team.

The second session went ahead as normal and while Ralf Schumacher put his Williams fifth fastest behind the McLarens and Ferraris, last year's pole position man Juan Pablo Montoya struggled. The Colombian had problems with the balance of his car in both practices and although he went seventh fastest he was beaten back to eighth by Jaguar's Pedro de la Rosa.

Jaguar looked on the pace, running a new suspension this weekend, Eddie Irvine setting a respectable ninth fastest. Jenson Button was sixth for Renault; team mate Jarno Trulli was fourth in the first practice but dropped down to twelfth second time around.

Mika Salo, who yesterday declared he would quit F1 at the end of this season, rounded off the top ten for Toyota with Allan McNish just behind. Both drivers were disappointed, and in Salo's case surprised, to be dropped by Toyota for next year. It's yet to be seen who will partner newly signed Olivier Panis for 2003.

Panis was sixteenth and Jacques Villeneuve thirteenth, a steady if lacklustre performance. Jordan and Sauber were disappointing in the second session, all four drivers way down the times although Takuma Sato dropped out with a blown engine.

Minardi stand-in Anthony Davidson outshone team mate Mark Webber in both sessions, as high as thirteenth in the second and finished two places ahead of Webber in eighteenth. Webber himself suffered a mechanical problem which cut short his second practice.

Outside the top six the positions changed rapidly but the end result was nothing unexpected. Michelin had the edge in the tyre battle, only the Ferraris making the top ten for Bridgestone. Michael Schumacher will be looking for his first pole position at Spa tomorrow but if McLaren keep the pace he may have problems. Final top six classification: Raikkonen, Coulthard, M. Schumacher, Barrichello, R. Schumacher, Button.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan