Michelin fourth on the rain Ferrari drivers Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello delighted the massed ranks of local fans that were rooting for them by dominating the opening day of practice for the San Marino Grand Prix. Imola is...
Michelin fourth on the rain
Ferrari drivers Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello delighted the massed ranks of local fans that were rooting for them by dominating the opening day of practice for the San Marino Grand Prix. Imola is the closest Formula One track to Ferrari's Maranello headquarters and a large crowd turned out to watch world championship leader Schumacher set the pace. The German lapped in 1m 36.898s on a track rendered extremely slippery by persistent rain.
The weather finally cleared a little in the afternoon but conditions remained difficult and Schumacher was one of many drivers to spin off. He was on course to improve his best lap further when he lost control, stalled and was forced to abandon his car wit h 14 minutes of the session remaining. Even so, his best lap was still 0.196s clear of Barrichello's. Jordan driver Giancarlo Fisichella was third fastest.
David Coulthard (West McLaren-Mercedes, fourth) was quickest of five Michelin drivers in the top 10. The Scot was fractionally faster than team-mate Kimi Raikkonen (fifth). Jarno Trulli (Renault F1) was seventh, despite spinning off and colliding with the barriers at the final corner with half an hour to go. Williams-BMW team-mates Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher -- currently third and second respectively in the world championship -- were ninth and 10th fastest. Both had a number of off-track excursion s during the day.
Eddie Irvine (Jaguar Racing, 13th) led the remaining Michelin drivers ahead of Jenson Button (Renault F1, 14th), Pedro de la Rosa (Jaguar Racing, 16th), Mark Webber (KL Minardi Asiatech, 19th), Mika Salo (Panasonic Toyota Racing, 20th), Alex Yoong (KL Mina rdi Asiatech, 21st) and Allan McNish (Panasonic Toyota Racing, 22nd). Weather forecasters say that conditions should improve during the weekend, although tomorrow's qualifying session might also be affected by rain.
Pierre Dupasquier (Michelin Motorsport Director)
You said during the winter that Michelin had made good progress with its wet tyres, but the Ferraris were still one second clear today. What did you make of that?
"Well, for one thing you never know what fuel levels teams are running at different times on a Friday so it is hard to gauge exactly where we stand. What I can say is that none of our drivers were complaining that driving in the wet was like driving on ice , which they suggested once or twice last season. Overall I think we have made progress but in these conditions I agree we are not quite at the level of Ferrari, but only them."
You tried both full wets and intermediates today. What conclusions did you draw?
"Most of our drivers tried intermediates towards the end of the session, when conditions began to improve, but our quickest drivers David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen set their best times on full wets. The conditions were quite delicate for anyone who trie d intermediates."
Does today's result mean you are hoping for dry conditions tomorrow?
"Not at all. There is plenty of data we can glean from today that might make us more effective tomorrow. We might find out that a different tyre pressure will more appropriate, for instance, while teams can make chassis set-up changes that will help the ov erall package. I am not worried what the weather does tomorrow. And you have to remember that some teams do lots and lots of wet-weather testing and they are probably able to find a suitable set-up for these conditions more quickly ."
In dry conditions, how hard on tyres is Imola?
"It is not too abrasive; and the fact drivers tend to attack the kerbs a lot in the pursuit of a quick lap time does not cause us any particular problems."