ENCOURAGING START FOR HONDA Jordan Honda driver goes third fastest in free practice Giancarlo Fisichella and his DHL Jordan Honda team-mate Takuma Sato finished the first session of free practice third and 11th fastest overall to lead the ...
ENCOURAGING START FOR HONDA Jordan Honda driver goes third fastest in free practice
Giancarlo Fisichella and his DHL Jordan Honda team-mate Takuma Sato finished the first session of free practice third and 11th fastest overall to lead the Honda-powered quartet of drivers and cars, ahead of the Lucky Strike B.A.R Hondas of Jacques Villeneuve and Olivier Panis, in 15th and 17th positions respectively. Jordan Honda's Takuma Sato took to the track early in the first timed session of the day and completed five laps on an almost empty circuit, as most drivers decided to bide their time in the hope that the rain would stop and the track would start to dry out.
Sato went on to complete 22 laps and set the 11th fastest time in the morning of 1m40.334s. The Japanese rookie span three times in the second session but managed to improve on his time by just over half a second, but unfortunately this did not improve his position and he remained 11th fastest overall. Towards the end of the first timed session the heavy rain let up, and Giancarlo Fisichella set the second fastest time of 1m38.093s, completing 18 laps. The Italian completed a further 15 laps in the second session but did not improve on his time, however only the Ferraris could go faster and Fisichella's best time went on to become the third fastest overall.
The wet conditions caused several drivers to go off the track, including B.A.R Honda's Jacques Villeneuve, who span twice in the first session. His team-mate Olivier Panis completed 15 laps and set the 15th fastest time in the morning of 1m41.694s closely followed by Villeneuve, who completed 16 laps and set a best time of 1m41.864s. In the second session on a drying track both drivers improved on their times, Villeneuve setting a best lap and 15th fastest time of 1m40.787s while Panis set the 17th fastest time of 1m41.565s.
In cold and rainy conditions at Imola (9 degrees), the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello set the pace closely followed by the Jordan Honda of Giancarlo Fisichella. The McLarens of David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen set the fourth and fifth fastest times of the day with Heinz Harald Frentzen (Arrows Cosworth) completing the top six positions.
Shuhei Nakamoto - Race and Test Team Manager, Honda Racing Development
"This is the first European race of the season and it is also the coldest and wettest conditions we've experienced so far. All the teams, including our partner teams, have been trying out different settings today, and so far we haven't experienced any problems whatsoever from an engine point of view. In testing the feedback from the Honda-powered drivers regarding the driveability of the new Imola-spec engine has been good, and we will be running it from tomorrow onwards so we hope to see better results overall throughout the weekend."
Giancarlo Fisichella Position: 3rd
"I am pleased with how the free practice went today and clearly the wet and cold conditions here in Imola suit our package well and we are, therefore, more competitive. The conditions on the track were very difficult but I don't mind driving in the wet at all and would be happy if it stayed wet for qualifying. If it does I believe we can qualify in the top six."
Takuma Sato Position: 11th
"I felt very comfortable with the car in the full wet conditions first thing this morning, but as the track dried out and I found things a lot more difficult as it was hard to get traction and braking stability. The balance improved when we changed tyres towards the end of the session and I think once we have worked with the data we will find a good set up for tomorrow."
Jacques Villeneuve Position: 15th
"The car was very difficult to drive today. The less grip there is the more you can see your problems. We're not getting enough downforce and we're having a very difficult time bringing temperature into the tyres. I think we're going to struggle to make the car competitive this weekend."
Olivier Panis Position: 17th
"It wasn't an easy session that's for sure. I'm disappointed to see that some of the problems we had in Brazil are still in evidence here today. The team have to take a good look at the problems we experienced in practice and really focus on finding a solution. Otherwise, we aren't going to progress."