Raikkonen ahead after French GP Saturday practices

Raikkonen ahead after French GP Saturday practices

Kimi Raikkonen topped the times at the end of the French Grand Prix practice sessions on Saturday morning, the revised McLaren MP4-19B setting a best of 1:14.513. Michael Schumacher's Ferrari had been quickest in the first session and the weather...

Kimi Raikkonen topped the times at the end of the French Grand Prix practice sessions on Saturday morning, the revised McLaren MP4-19B setting a best of 1:14.513. Michael Schumacher's Ferrari had been quickest in the first session and the weather did not interfere with the running.

Kimi Raikkonen.
Photo by DaimlerChrysler.

Conditions were cool and dry for the first morning session and BAR was active early on. Takuma Sato was initially at the top of the time sheet, 1:16.715, then teammate Jenson Button took over with 1:16.304. Jaguar's Christian Klien was the third runner in the opening ten minutes, nine tenths down on Button.

Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella was next to join the times, taking second fastest, and Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner clocked fifth. Fisichella moved up to the top, 1:15.910 and the second Sauber of Felipe Massa slotted into third. Marc Gen?'s Williams was also in the action and Rubens Barrichello and Schumacher took sixth and eighth for Ferrari.

Jordan's Giorgio Pantano and the pair of Minardis made up the top ten after 15 minutes. Barrichello improved to second and Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya shot to the top on his first flyer, 1:15.529. He was immediately demoted by Fernando Alonso; 1:15.434 for the Renault and the first to beat Barrichello's best on Friday.

Nick Heidfeld's Jordan appeared in 11th, followed by Toyota's Olivier Panis in 12th. Panis then improved to ninth and David Coulthard took over the top spot, clocking 1:15.402 in the McLaren. Jarno Trulli put his Renault second quickest, just two hundredths behind Coulthard and about the same ahead of teammate Alonso.

Schumacher returned to sixth behind Barrichello after being shuffled down the order, and the second Toyota of Cristiano da Matta made ninth. Schumacher then went to the top with a 1:15.351, again the gap being only hundredths ahead of Coulthard. At that point the top four -- Schumacher, Coulthard, Trulli and Alonso -- were separated by less than a tenth. The top eight were within a second.

While Coulthard was in the thick of it at the front, teammate Raikkonen had yet to set a time after 35 minutes. Barrichello improved his time but stayed just outside the top four and Mark Webber, who had been pottering about in 15th, moved up to seventh. Minardi's Gianmaria Bruni made a good effort for 16th, ahead of both the Jordans.

Panis improved to fifth in the final minutes and the session came to a close with no changes in position at the top. Schumacher bettered his time to 1:14.944, leaving Coulthard just under half a second down. Raikkonen never made it on to the time sheet in the first session.

Webber was out first in the second session, clocking 1:17.401 initially. Conditions were marginally warmer but no real change from the first practice. Panis was next to the top, 1:16.800, and Baumgartner took third. Alonso demoted Panis with a 1:16.706 and in quick succession Schumacher, Coulthard, Massa and Fisichella took the four top spots, Schumacher's best being 1:14.742.

Raikkonen made it into the action, second fastest and just under eight tenths down on Schumacher. Barrichello took fourth and Klien was in the top ten, ninth, while Panis was shuffled down the order to 10th. Fisichella crashed out in the first sector midway through the session but not too drastically. Button clocked 10th and Sato 11th and Montoya was the only one not on the time sheet after 20 minutes.

Coulthard improved to second, just over two tenths down on Schumacher, while Alonso and Gen? took third and fourth respectively. Bruni also came to a halt, his Minardi failing in the first sector. Raikkonen took over the top spot, 1:14.513, the new McLaren so far appearing to be shaping up rather well.

Schumacher had a go at Raikkonen's time, closing the gap to just under six hundredths, and da Matta made third, three tenths off the leading pair. Sato then took third and Panis fourth, the top six within half a second. Barrichello returned to fourth after the order change, three tenths down on Raikkonen, so it was pretty close at the top.

Klien improved to tenth, Trulli to eighth and Button to second, the BAR five hundredths down on Raikkonen. Webber improved to 12th and then time ran out. Nice to see a McLaren at the top of the times -- the development car has been looking quite good so far this weekend.

Tyre choices will be made after these morning practices, due to the bad weather that disrupted yesterday's sessions. BAR, McLaren and Renault appear to be on the pace, and Ferrari of course. Toyota has been putting in some notable performances but aside from that, no real surprises. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Button, M. Schumacher, Sato, Barrichello, Panis, da Matta, Coulthard.

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