McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen finished the Saturday practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix at the top of the times, with a best of 1:27.297. The early session was wet and there was little activity but the later practice saw a drying track and...
McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen finished the Saturday practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix at the top of the times, with a best of 1:27.297. The early session was wet and there was little activity but the later practice saw a drying track and faster times. Renault's Fernando Alonso was just a tenth off Raikkonen's pace, with the second McLaren of Juan Pablo Montoya in third.
Minardi did run this morning; the team has withdrawn its injunction and spent last night preparing its cars to 2005 regulation spec. Minardi rookie Patrick Friesacher led the pack out for installation laps as the first session got under way.
He and teammate Christijan Albers had the track to themselves for the first 20 minutes and after a few experimental laps Albers was the first to clock a time under two minutes, 1:55.490. Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro ventured out into the difficult conditions to slot in behind Albers but over two seconds off the Minardi at first.
Monteiro picked up the pace a little to take the top spot with a 1:53.457 then Raikkonen put in a 1:46.474 on his initial effort. He stayed out for another lap and clocked 1:43.526. Albers improved to just over five seconds from Raikkonen but had the position taken from him by the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello.
Just over half the field managed to put in a couple of laps in the last few minutes but there was very little action. The second Ferrari of Michael Schumacher ended up on top with a 1:40.540, some 15 seconds adrift of Friday practice times, followed by Barrichello and Raikkonen.
The conditions in the second session were a little better and the rain had lifted by the start. The drivers were quick to take to the track; Toyota's Jarno Trulli was first on the time sheet with a 1:44.204. He was immediately demoted by David Coulthard, as the Red Bull clocked 1:41.294, some three seconds quicker.
The Williams of Mark Webber moved up behind Coulthard and closed the gap to two seconds, then Sauber's Felipe Massa bagged the fastest time, 1:41.194, for a second up. Massa's teammate Jacques Villenevue made fifth, seven seconds off Felipe's time.
Massa improved to 1:38.809 but Coulthard outdid him with a 1:38.610. Villeneuve moved up to fourth and BAR's Jenson Button and Albers made it seven on the time sheet. Massa answered Coulthard's effort and clocked 1:38.058 to put the Sauber back at the top.
Alonso took third and the second Red Bull of Christian Klien moved into fourth. Massa upgraded his time again, 1:37.686, and Villeneuve took the fourth spot. Alonso's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella clocked fifth and Massa once again upped his pace, this time to 1:37.408.
Alonso closed in to second fastest, one tenth down, with Villeneuve continuing his climb to make third, and Fisichella to fourth. Juan Pablo Montoya, Ralf Schumacher's Toyota and Takuma Sato's BAR were also in the top ten after 15 minutes.
Montoya made third while Fisichella moved to the top slot, 1:35.881, and by then most drivers were on intermediate tyres. Trulli returned to the top ten after being shuffled down the order and the pair of Jordans were also on the time sheet. Half way through, the Ferraris, Raikkonen, Freisacher and the Williams of Heidfeld had yet to set a time.
Heidfeld came out and posted seventh fastest for his first effort, then the yellow flags were waved when Karthikeyan's Jordan went off track with a possible brake problem. Raikkonen was first to make a move when the track went green again, the McLaren setting a fastest of 1:35.546.
Coulthard improved to fifth and Webber to fourth, then Michael's first flyer put him second, just a tenth off Raikkonen. Massa continued his efforts and took third, the Sauber only a couple of tenths down on the Ferrari. Seemingly from nowhere, Ralf shot up to the top of the times with a 1:34.924, and Sato was quick to follow into second.
As if that wasn't surprise, Ralf's teammate Trulli then took top honours when he clocked 1:34.588. A sudden surge of competitiveness from Toyota, which had been fairly low key up until then. However, it didn't last long as Renault ousted the Toyota upstarts with first Fisichella and then Alonso going fastest, Fernando a 1:29.345. By then the track was virtually dry.
Coulthard demoted Trulli and Ralf further when he improved to third and Alonso bought his time down to 1:28.900. Sato also moved ahead of the Toyotas for fourth. Albers abruptly hurled his Minardi to 10th but was immediately displaced a couple of positions by Barrichello improving and Montoya going quickest with a 1:28.256.
In the last minutes of action Button moved up to fifth, Webber to sixth and Heidfeld to tenth. Raikkonen returned to the top, 1:27.297, and Alonso took second a tenth down. Just as the session came to an end, Sato parked his BAR with an unknown problem
Naturally the times got quicker as the track got drier but McLaren and Renault still seem the strongest. BAR and Williams notably picked up a little, while Red Bull and Sauber made some good running in the wet conditions. Ferrari was suspiciously quiet. Toyota's unexpected burst of activity appeared to be a blip on the radar, but you never know…
Albers' stint in 10th quickest was equally surprising and brief; Minardi settled at the back of the grid by the end -- but ahead of the Jordans. This afternoon's qualifying looks likely to have a McLaren or Renault on provisional pole but it's far from certain. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Alonso, Montoya, Fisichella, Button, Webber, M. Schumacher, Sato.