Schumacher sets Monaco GP practice pace

Schumacher sets Monaco GP practice pace

Michael Schumacher set the pace in the first practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix but it was an hour when the state of play changed rapidly. Schumacher's best was 1:16.502 but Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello was a lowly 12th. The BAR duo...

Michael Schumacher set the pace in the first practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix but it was an hour when the state of play changed rapidly. Schumacher's best was 1:16.502 but Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello was a lowly 12th. The BAR duo of Takuma Sato and Jenson Button followed Schumacher in second and third fastest respectively.

Michael Schumacher.
Photo by Brousseau Photo.

It's been predicted that rain may fall on race day but on Thursday it was dry, with air temperature in the low twenties and the track closer to 30. Installation laps were quickly under way but it was nearly 15 minutes before anyone set a time. Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner was first on the time sheet, followed by Jordan third driver Timo Glock.

Gianmaria Bruni put his Minardi in the action and Jaguar third driver Bj?rn Wirdheim topped the small list with a 1:26.710. Glock then bought it down to 1:24.722 and BAR's number three, Anthony Davidson, took over with a 1:21.404. Minardi third driver Bas Leinders joined the little group of action and Ralf Schumacher was the first casualty, the Williams stopping in the third sector with an engine problem almost as soon as he ventured out.

Renault's Fernando Alonso was the first of the front runners in the times, taking the top with a 1:21.101, but Davidson snatched it back -- 1:20.098 and over a second faster. Alonso retaliated and clocked 1:19.891, two tenths up as their personal race continued. Alonso's teammate Jarno Trulli was fifth fastest and Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta fourth.

Juan Pablo Montoya joined Alonso and Davidson's battle, 1:19.287 for the Williams, but Davidson was keen on that top slot and took it back with a 1:19.118. Jordan's Giorgio Pantano seemed none the worse for wear after injuring his knee in yesterday's football match, and took fourth fastest. Montoya ousted Davidson with a 1:18.960 and was in turn deposed by Alonso, 1:18.640.

Mark Webber slotted his Jaguar into fourth and Jordan's Nick Heidfeld took sixth fastest, the Jordans looking quite healthy early on. Webber's teammate Christian Klien was a reasonable 11th as he acclimatized to the Monte Carlo streets and Cristiano da Matta edged in ahead of Toyota teammate Zonta for fifth. Takuma Sato was the first BAR race driver out and clocked sixth quickest.

Felipe Massa ventured out for Sauber and went 11th fastest and it remained static at top, Alonso, Davidson and Montoya running one, two, three. McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen posted a cautious 16th on his first trip out and Giancarlo Fisichella upset the front runners with a 1:18.441 to take the top for Sauber. Jenson Button was also cautious early on, his first effort being 19th.

Michael Schumacher started Ferrari's day with sixth fastest. Webber came to grief in the middle sector and the session was stopped as his Jaguar was spouting flames from the engine. The Australian hopped out and relieved a marshal of a fire extinguisher to douse the flames himself.

Once the car was cleared Davidson returned to the top, 1:17.791, and Button improved to second quickest, but Davidson was quickly deposed by Michael's 1:17.609. Oliver Panis put his Toyota 11th and Michael shaved another tenth off his top time.

David Coulthard took eighth quickest, although McLaren teammate Raikkonen was languishing at the bottom of the times. Rubens Barrichello just made the top ten and Coulthard moved up to sixth. Davidson, Montoya and Alonso were still holding formation, improving to second, third and fourth respectively after being shuffled down the order. Glock was the next casualty, stopping in the first sector.

Raikkonen improved to eighth, putting both McLarens in the top ten, and Sato disrupted the Davidson/Montoya/Alonso party by taking third. Zonta squeezed Micheal off the top in the final minutes, 1:17.426, a tenth and a half up for the Toyota. Wirdheim had some kind of problem at the end of the session and came to a halt in the middle sector.

Coulthard shunted Michael down a further slot by taking second. The champion duly responded by going even faster, taking back the top spot with a 1:16.767. Alonso moved into fourth fastest and Button to second but the Englishman was immediately demoted by teammate Sato. Michael improved his time yet again, 1:16.502, seven tenths up on Sato.

By the end of the session, only the top four were within a second. No surprise to see the BARs performing strongly and both Renaults in the top eight. Slightly surprising to see both McLarens in the top ten and Barrichello only 12th, and Zonta was the best of the third drivers in fourth.

From Barrichello down to Klien in 17th, everyone was over two seconds off the lead pace and over four seconds off after the Jaguar. Final top eight classification: M.Schumacher, Sato, Button, Zonta, Coulthard, Alonso, Davidson, Trulli.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Minardi , Jordan