The first free practice for the season opener at Albert Park, Melbourne kicked off at 11.00 am local time on Friday 7th March. Near enough every team was out on track in the opening minutes, and the first casualty was the BAR of Jenson Button....
The first free practice for the season opener at Albert Park, Melbourne kicked off at 11.00 am local time on Friday 7th March. Near enough every team was out on track in the opening minutes, and the first casualty was the BAR of Jenson Button. Less than half an hour into the session Button's Honda engine expired -- an ominous start for the season.
Michael Schumacher took the top of the times from Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher, third, and Olivier Panis putting in an early fourth for Toyota. Mark Webber was up to sixth for Jaguar, with the McLarens of Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard eighth and ninth.
Early backmarkers were, surprisingly, Nick Heidfeld for Sauber and the BAR of Jacques Villeneuve. Webber improved to fourth while rookie teammate Antonio Pizzonia set a respectable twelfth.
Other rookies had varying results about half way through: Toyota new boy, and 2002 CART champion Cristiano da Matta was 11th fastest; Ralph Firman for Jordan 15th and Justin Wilson for Minardi 16th.
Raikkonen improved to 7th but then dropped back to 9th, with da Matta to tenth, and Barrichello up to fifth. In a surprise effort, Fernando Alonso shot up to third for Renault. Coulthard picked up seventh for McLaren and Pizzonia up to 11th.
Saubers were 16th and 18th, Frentzen and Heidfeld respectively -- very, very disappointing for the Swiss team. Meanwhile, Barrichello takes over at the top for Ferrari and Heidfeld improves to 12th, Frentzen to 7th.
Alonso confirmed his third fastest time, but Mark Webber clocked second, and Michael Schumacher immediately bumped him down to third.
Positions changed rapidly in the last few minutes but final top six classification was Raikkonen, Coulthard, Trulli, Barrichello, Webber and Michael Schumacher.