MICHELIN OFF TO A FLYING START AS F1 RETURNS TO EUROPE Michelin and its partner teams continue to set the Formula One pace on the sport& ...
MICHELIN OFF TO A FLYING START AS F1 RETURNS TO EUROPE
Michelin and its partner teams continue to set the Formula One pace on the sports return to its European heartland. McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa lapped Imola in 1m 20.484s during this afternoons free practice session and was also quickest this morning.
Jenson Button (B*A*R-Honda), 2004 pole position winner in San Marino, and Ricardo Zonta (Toyota) were second and third, to give Michelin a top-three clean sweep with as many different teams. Six of Michelins seven partners featured in the top 12.
Kimi Räikkönen (Team McLaren Mercedes) was fourth ahead of world championship leader Fernando Alonso (Renault, fifth), Alexander Wurz (Team McLaren Mercedes, eighth), Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault, ninth), Takuma Sato (B*A*R-Honda, 10th), Christian Klien (Red Bull Racing, 11th) and Felipe Massa (Sauber, 12th).
Pace-setter Pedro de la Rosa was fined $5,000 this morning for exiting the pit lane while the red light a signal that you may not proceed was still showing. Alexander Wurz standing in for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya at McLaren this weekend is poised to start his first grand prix since Malaysia 2000.
The Austrian has taken part in 52 Formula One races, all for the Benetton team (now known as Renault). He obtained his best result in 1997, when he finished third in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Red Bull Racing has created quite an impression at Imola this weekend. The Austrian-owned team has unveiled a three-storey motorhome, the biggest in the paddock. Jordan reserve Robert Doornbos crashed at Acque Minerale during todays second free practice session. The Dutchman was able to restart, however, and limped back to the pits with a damaged nose wing.
Ferrari team-mates Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello were seventh and eighth today as the defending world champion prepares for its first race of the season on home soil.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director:
It has been a very interesting start to the weekend and, once again, it appears that several of Michelins partners will be extremely competitive."
For Imola we have developed a greater range of tyre compounds than usual two primes and three options. This is in response to specific requests from our partner teams, who are beginning to tune their chassis to a finer degree as they gain more experience of their current cars and the latest tyre regulations."
"It is too early for any definitive decisions to have been taken, of course, but I anticipate that at least three different types of Michelin will be on the grid. Forecasters predict definite rain between now and the race and that will add an extra degree of uncertainty to proceedings."
"It is possible that the track will be very green once again by Sunday, for instance. It will be fascinating to see how things develop during the balance of the weekend. Whatever happens, though, it looks set to be a very open and competitive race.