The opening day of the Spanish Grand Prix marked the dawn of a new era in Formula One, with the reintroduction of electronic driver aids such as traction control and fully-automatic gearboxes. While the rules might have changed, however, the...
The opening day of the Spanish Grand Prix marked the dawn of a new era in Formula One, with the reintroduction of electronic driver aids such as traction control and fully-automatic gearboxes. While the rules might have changed, however, the running order at the head of the field remains little changed.
World championship leader David Coulthard (McLaren-Mercedes) set the pace, although the Michelin-shod Jaguar of Eddie Irvine was second fastest - its best performance of the season to date. Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari) was third and his team-mate Michael Schumacher, who currently shares the series lead with Coulthard, was fifth.Jaguar Racing newcomer Pedro de la Rosa - promoted from his old test-driving role in place of Prost-bound Luciano Burti - was a promising seventh, half a second off Irvine's pace.
San Marino Grand Prix winner Ralf Schumacher (BMW WilliamsF1.Team), who had a brief off-track excursion, was third fastest of the Michelin-shod drivers, in eighth place. His team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya did not have such a productive day. The Colombian was 13th after suffering an engine failure during the second half of the day's two-hour track session.
In his first drive for the Prost-Acer team, Burti was 21st - about one second per lap slower than team-mate Jean Alesi, who was 15th. Mild Seven Benetton Renault Sport drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Jenson Button were evenly matched, in 18th and 19th places. The European Minardis of Fernando Alonso and Tarso Marques were 20th and 22nd fastest. Brazilian Marques missed vital track time after spinning off with 40 minutes of practice still remaining.
Pierre Dupasquier (Motorsport Director):
The track "Although we tested at Barcelona during the winter, the track was very different today - nothing like it was the last time we ran here. And at every track we have visited this season it is always the case that track conditions change drastically between Friday's first free practice and the race, particularly as far as tyre durability is concerned. That makes it difficult to predict how things are going to be."
Today's wear rate
"The surface was quite abrasive this morning but it changed during the break between the two sessions and became less so towards the end. When more rubber is laid down during the day and the ambient temperature rises, this is not an unusual situation."
What's new for Michelin in Barcelona?
"We are using the same front tyre construction that we introduced at Imola two weeks ago, albeit with a different compound that has been designed especially for Barcelona. On the rear there are no major changes apart from in the compound."
Does the track favour a hard or a soft compound?
"There is not a great deal of difference between our A and B compounds. It won't be an easy choice for teams to make, especially if track conditions continue to change. The A tyre is geared towards high performance and durability while the B is slightly softer. Its wear rate was a little higher at the start of the session, but it became better suited to the track as the temperature rose."
"This will influence tyre choice but, according to the weather forecast, temperatures are likely to drop later in the weekend and there is a possibility of rain. We shall have to see what happens."