Panis sets the pace in European GP first practice

Olivier Panis was the man who set the pace in the first practice session for the European Grand Prix, the Toyota driver clocking a best of 1:31.197. The Jaguar of Mark Webber was just two hundredths of a second behind and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen...

Olivier Panis was the man who set the pace in the first practice session for the European Grand Prix, the Toyota driver clocking a best of 1:31.197. The Jaguar of Mark Webber was just two hundredths of a second behind and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen three hundredths behind the Australian. Less than a second separated the top eight.

The big guns were out early, Ferrari, Williams and McLaren all on track straight away to get some installation laps in. David Coulthard took the top of the times with a 1:33.530 but the Jaguars were immediately fighting for space. Antonio Pizzonia slotted into third and Mark Webber overtook Coulthard with a 1:33.081.

Giancarlo Fisichella was next to the top, 1:33.030, just five hundredths better than Webber. The Jordan was followed by the Renault of Jarno Trulli shaving off nearly half a second, into the 1:32s with 1:32.576. Teammate Fernando Alonso was fourth quickest, leaving an interesting top four of Trulli, Webber, Fisichella, Alonso with 20 minutes gone.

Nick Heidfeld's Sauber had a broken front wing at the chicane and the session was red-flagged due to debris on the track. After the restart, Kimi Raikkonen and Coulthard picked up again, second and third fastest respectively. Webber and Cristiano da Matta both spun and the Minardi of Jos Vertappen was still in the garage by half way through.

The Dutchman posted seventeenth quickest when he finally made it out on track, ahead of Jenson Button, da Matta and Justin Wilson. Juan Pablo Montoya was the best Williams, taking third from Coulthard, then Olivier Panis put in a surprise appearance at the top of the times. The Toyota driver clocked a 1:31.397, over a second faster than Webber and Michael Schumacher behind him.

Pizzonia then jumped up to second fastest, just under eight tenths behind Panis. Button improved to eighth and Rubens Barrichello to sixth. Ralf Schumacher overtook Williams teammate Montoya for third. The Ferraris were low-profile, Michael's next improvement taking him to fifth. Alonso moved up to second and da Matta into the top ten but no-one was near challenging Panis at that time. Alonso was half a second off the Frenchman's best.

Last minute improvements were Pizzonia to third, Webber to second -- the Jaguar just two hundredths behind Panis -- and the McLarens into the top eight. An unusually quiet time for the Ferraris but maybe they're just lulling everyone else into a false sense of security. Final top eight classification: Panis, Webber, Raikkonen, Trulli, Alonso, Pizzonia, Coulthard, R. Schumacher.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Antonio Pizzonia , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Olivier Panis , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Justin Wilson , Fernando Alonso , Cristiano da Matta
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan