Juan Pablo Montoya topped the practice times after the two Saturday sessions for the Italian Grand Prix and the top three championship contenders traded fastest times. Montoya's best at the end of the second session was 1:21.468, just a tenth...
Juan Pablo Montoya topped the practice times after the two Saturday sessions for the Italian Grand Prix and the top three championship contenders traded fastest times. Montoya's best at the end of the second session was 1:21.468, just a tenth ahead of Michael Schumacher, who had Kimi Raikkonen right behind him until the dying minutes. Ferrari was best in the first practice, Schumacher ahead of Rubens Barrichello.
The first session started in a fairly reserved manner; Sauber's Heinz-Harald Frentzen set the early pace in the region of 1:24 seconds, then yesterday's pole man Montoya bought it down to the 1:23s. The Ferrari duo of Barrichello and Michael were next to the top, into the 1:22 bracket, then Schumacher returned to the pits after a brief trip into the gravel.
Renault's Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso were lapping in the top ten, as were the McLaren pair of David Coulthard and Raikkonen. Jenson Button was the best BAR in fourth but Toyota did not have a good session compared to yesterday. Olivier Panis only managed four laps and did't set a competitive time, while Cristiano da Matta didn't quite make the top ten.
Montoya pushed a little too hard and cut the chicane and posted fifth fastest by the end of the session. Gen? managed a creditable sixth and Coulthard was best of the rest in third, behind the two Ferraris. Michael led Barrichello this time, a 1:21.623 for the German, half a second up on his teammate at the end of the first practice.
The second session commenced with Raikkonen first to the top, 1:23.183 for the Finn, with Jaguar's Mark Webber about a second slower behind him. Teammate Justin Wilson was an early third and Panis made up for his inactive first practice by clocking the fourth fastest time. Alonso moved into second then Trulli displaced Raikkonen with a 1:22.445. Jacques Villeneuve made his presence felt in third and the Saubers were initially in the top ten.
Jordan made some early running, Giancarlo Fisichella and Zsolt Baumgartner just outside the first ten and Button removed teammate Villeneuve from the third slot. The Englishman improved again to second, just under two tenths shy of Trulli. Da Matta moved up to fourth and Schumacher was next to the top with a 1:22.104, three tenths better than Trulli. Barrichello took the fourth slot, then into second behind Michael.
The Williams pair were slow to get going, Gen? the first to break into the top ten after fifteen minutes while Montoya completed a handful of laps without setting a competitive time. Jordan slipped down the order after its initial foray and squabbled at the back with the Minardis. Panis improved to fifth and Montoya finally got into the top ten just behind the Frenchman in sixth.
Raikkonen returned to the top with a 1:22.091, shaving just one hundredth off Michael's previous best. The Jaguars were conspicuously quietafter the early effort, Wilson and Webber languishing in fifteenth and sixteenth until Webber struggled up to eleventh. Baumgartner finally got ahead of the Minardis in eighteenth but was promptly demoted by Jos Verstappen taking the place back.
Montoya woke up and posted 1:21.468 for the top time, the first under 1:22 and over half a second ahead of Raikkonen, then Michael improved to second fastest, just over a tenth off Montoya. Coulthard made a return to the top ten in fifth, as did Trulli for seventh. Barrichello, Button, Alonso and Panis all improved slightly but the three championship contenders held the top three positions.
Panis ended his morning when his Toyota came to a halt out on the circuit and the session was red-flagged as the car was spilling oil on track. Only a few minutes remained at the restart but it was long enough for Gen? to improve to third. A good effort from the Williams test driver, who should be able to do some damage control from Ralf's absence.
The tyre competition remained static at seven to three in the top ten in favour of Michelin, Button again being the other Bridgestone runner aside from the Ferraris. Final top eight classification: Montoya, M. Schumacher, Gen?, Raikkonen, Barrichello, Coulthard, Panis, Trulli.