Jarno Trulli set the pace for the first practice of the Japanese Grand Prix, the Renault driver setting a best of 1:30.727, the only one into the 1:30 bracket. Michael Schumacher was three-tenths behind in second and McLaren's David Coulthard...
Jarno Trulli set the pace for the first practice of the Japanese Grand Prix, the Renault driver setting a best of 1:30.727, the only one into the 1:30 bracket. Michael Schumacher was three-tenths behind in second and McLaren's David Coulthard third, one-thousandth off the Ferrari. Schumacher's title rival Kimi Raikkonen was sixth fastest.
Both Ferraris were out on track straight away, swiftly followed by the rest of the field putting in installation laps. Juan Pablo Montoya clocked the first time of the session, a 1:34.228 for the Williams driver. Raikkonen was into second and the Williams of Ralf Schumacher third, both over a second off Montoya. Minardi's Nicolas Kiesa and Coulthard completed the initial top five.
Raikkonen was next to the top, 1:34.059, and was in turn replaced by the Jaguar of Mark Webber, 1:33.800. The pair of BARs, with Jenson Button leading Takuma Sato, were lapping in the top ten and Coulthard took over the top slot with a 1:33.409, just under four tenths quicker than Webber. Ralph Firman was the first Jordan out and went second fastest, seven hundredths off Coulthard's pace.
Giancarlo Fisichella, on his last weekend for Jordan, was in the top ten, along with the second Jaguar of Justin Wilson. Michael Schumacher's first flyer landed him ninth fastest and the pair of Toyotas, Olivier Panis leading Cristiano da Matta, rounded off the fourteen drivers to set a competitive time in the first fifteen minutes.
Renault's Fernando Alonso hit the top on his first timed lap, 1:32,768, swiftly followed by Michael into second, six hundredths behind. He was displaced by teammate Rubens Barrichello, just six thousandths behind Alonso. Outside the top ten, Jos Verstappen was running well for Minardi in thirteenth and the pair of Saubers, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Nick Heidfeld also putting in a last performance for their team, were 14th and 16th respectively.
Trulli was the last man to set a competitive time and like teammate Alonso before him, went straight to the top on his first flyer: 1:31.981, over seven tenths up on the Spaniard. Coulthard improved to second quickest, half a second shy of Trulli. Ralf, meanwhile, was lapping outside the top ten until he improved to seventh half way through the session, over a second and a half off the front runners.
Raikkonen returned to the top with a 1:31.588 and Panis improved drastically to fifth from 18th. Ralf also moved up, to third, although he was some seven tenths off the pace of Raikkonen. Da Matta steadily climbed the times, up to ninth and the Saubers loitered at the back with the Minardis. Trulli took fastest off Raikkonen, 1:31.046 for the Italian, and Panis jumped another couple of places to third, with ten minutes to go.
Michael was the next to take over the popular third spot; Barrichello went one better to second fastest but was immediately displaced by Alonso. Fisichella improved to 12th and Sato to tenth, the Japanese, who replaced Jacques Villeneuve, ahead of teammate Button. Montoya went up to fifth and Webber to seventh and the Saubers also improved to just outside the top ten. Coulthard took over second fastest, three tenths off Trulli, and Raikkonen improved his time but stayed fourth.
In the final minutes Michael deposed Coulthard by two thousandths and the top three were separated by three tenths. Barrichello moved into fourth but Alonso ended his session off track in the gravel. An active session with the top four teams making the most of the running, although Ralf ended up in eleventh. Final top eight classification: Trulli, M. Schumacher, Coulthard, Barrichello, Alonso, Raikkonen, Montoya, Webber.