Michael Schumacher dusted off his rainmaster reputation for the first practice session of the Japanese Grand Prix and set a best time of 1:47.906 to start proceedings at Suzuka. Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella was second quickest, just under half a...
Michael Schumacher dusted off his rainmaster reputation for the first practice session of the Japanese Grand Prix and set a best time of 1:47.906 to start proceedings at Suzuka. Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella was second quickest, just under half a second down on the Ferrari, and Schumacher's teammate Rubens Barrichello was third.
The weather has been a topic of much debate in recent days and for the first session it was, as predicted, cool and very wet, with the rain falling heavily. Nobody was keen to venture out into the poor conditions and after the installation laps there were no times recorded in the first half-hour.
The Jaguar race duo of Christian Klien and Mark Webber both went out for another look but returned to the pits without clocking a flying lap. Jarno Trulli made his debut for Toyota and was the first to set a time after 35 minutes. The Italian posted a cautious 2:11.052 initially.
He then had another go and bought the time down to 2:02.431 -- Barrichello's pole time of last year was 1:31.713. Trulli continued to put the laps in, his next being 1:59.148. Minardi third driver Bas Leinders and Jordan counterpart Robert Doornbos joined the time sheet but were over five seconds adrift.
The pair improved to within three seconds of Trulli, Leinders ahead, and with ten minutes remaining there was a little more track action. Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner joined in fourth fastest and Fisichella ousted Trulli from the top spot with a 1:55.132. Timo Glock put his Jordan second and teammate Nick Heidfeld slotted into fourth.
Michael took over the top, the Ferrari over seven seconds up on Fisichella, 1:47.906. Fisichella's next effort closed the gap to just over two seconds and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen took third. Fernando Alonso was the first Renault on the time sheet, fifth, and Raikkonen improved his time but stayed third.
Felipe Massa's morning was short lived, his Sauber sliding off track in the first sector after only a couple of laps. Ralf Schumacher put his Williams seventh and with a couple of minutes to go, half the field had not set a time. Jacques Villeneuve managed 11th in the second Renault and Jenson Button made seventh in the BAR.
Gianmaria Bruni's Minardi made it 14 on the time sheet and Juan Pablo Montoya's Williams joined in fifth. Fisichella improved to within half a second of Michael and Button moved up to fourth. Heidfeld took fifth and BAR third driver Anthony Davidson clocked 15th on his first flyer.
Barrichello put his Ferrari third and then time ran out. Eight drivers did not manage to set a time and 10 was the most laps recorded, by Doornbos and Trulli. Michael held station at the top and the rain is forecast to continue for this afternoon's session. Final top eight classification: M. Schumacher, Fisichella, Barrichello, Button, Heidfeld, Raikkonen, Glock, Montoya.