Jarno Trulli (Renault F1-Michelin) leader of the eight Michelin drivers in the top 10 Italian Jarno Trulli gave the Michelin-shod Renault team a boost by setting fastest time on the opening day of practice for the 60th running of the Monaco...
Jarno Trulli (Renault F1-Michelin) leader of the eight Michelin drivers in the top 10
Italian Jarno Trulli gave the Michelin-shod Renault team a boost by setting fastest time on the opening day of practice for the 60th running of the Monaco Grand Prix, Formula One's most famous race. Trulli lapped in 1m 18.913s towards the end of the two-pa rt, two-hour session. Lap times improved as cars laid more rubber on the principality's tight and unforgiving streets - and they are expected to be quicker still when official qualifying comes around on Saturday.
Michelin drivers filled eight of the top 10 positions and Toyota rookie Allan McNish upset the formbook by setting second fastest time, despite never having raced in Monaco before. Friday practice times do not always provide a true picture of what the race might bring, because teams experiment with different fuel loads, but the Scot looked quick and tidy all day at a track that traditionally punishes even the slightest error.
David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes/Michelin) started his weekend brightly in pursuit of a second consecutive pole position here. He was third fastest. Mika Salo (Panasonic Toyota Racing/Michelin, fifth) was quickest of the remaining Michelin runners ahead of Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1 Team-Michelin, sixth), Mark Webber (KL Minardi-Asiatech, eighth), Juan Pablo Montoya (BMW WilliamsF1 Team, ninth) and Jenson Button (Renault, 10th).
Button was one of several drivers to hit the barriers during the day. He slid off the circuit at the Mirabeau hairpin in the closing moments of the session. The four remaining Michelin runners had similar problems. Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar Racing-Michelin) clipped a kerb and slid into the guardrail as he exited the swimming pool during the morning, although the team had his car repaired in time for the afternoon session.
His team-mate Eddie Irvine crashed heavily at Massenet after the lunch break and was fo rced to abandon his track activities for the day. They were 18th and 20th overall. Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes, 19th) only managed five laps after running off the road at Rascasse and the same corner caught out Alex Yoong (KL Minardi-Asiatech, 22nd) e arly in the afternoon.
Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher from the championship-leading Ferrari team, Michelin's arch-rival, were seventh and 11th fastest respectively.
Michelin's day, Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director)
Cars on Michelin tyres set the fastest three times overall and also occupied eight of the top 10 positions. Not a bad start to the weekend.
"So far so good but, as we know, free practice times can be misleading because teams spend all day fiddling around with different fuel loads and set-ups, so the true picture is likely to be different when qualifying comes around on Saturday. That said, I a m pleased with the way things have gone so far and we have had no particular problems."
We saw Jenson Button's Renault going around with damage to its left rear tyre. Do you know what happened?
"Not yet. We are currently investigating the incident."
For Monaco you have brought a primary (A) tyre that features many elements used before and an option (B) tyre that is brand new. How are they both performing?
"It is quite interesting because up until now they have proved to be markedly different - and the option has been the quicker of the two. It remains to be seen whether that will be the case by the time the race comes around, because the track will definite ly become much faster as the weekend wears on. I expect pole position to be in the 1m 16s range - and we are a long way from that at the moment."
Monaco is always a track that throws up a few surprises!
"Absolutely. There are some drivers who seem to revel in this circuit, others who are feel less at ease. Plus, average lap speeds are slower here than an other circuits, so engines that perhaps lack a bit of top-end horsepower might come into their own if they have strong bottom-end torque. That kind of thing might shuffle the order a little at the front of the pack."
There are people who believe Michelin still has some catching up to do in the event of rain. How do you feel about that? And how well prepared are you if it should be wet this weekend?
"They might have a point - but I don't see how they can possible know. So far this year we have not had a really sustained period of rain so we have no idea how we might fare in such conditions. For this weekend we have brought a new wet-weather compound w ith us, but from the forecasts I have been given I don't think we are likely to need it."