McLaren's Alex Wurz made the most of his stint as the team's third driver in the second Friday practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix, with the best time of the day. Wurz, who took the Friday role while Pedro de la Rosa deputises for the ...
McLaren's Alex Wurz made the most of his stint as the team's third driver in the second Friday practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix, with the best time of the day. Wurz, who took the Friday role while Pedro de la Rosa deputises for the injured Juan Pablo Montoya, clocked 1:30.695, seven tenths faster than Ricardo Zonta set in the morning.
The Austrian, who had a job getting his lanky frame comfortably into the cockpit of the McLaren MP4-20, was just over 1.2 seconds ahead of Renault's Fernando Alonso in the afternoon session. Vitantonio Liuzzi held station from the morning practice in third fastest.
The track temperature was into the mid fifties and the air edging towards 40 degrees at the start of the session. Third drivers Robert Doornbos (Jordan), Liuzzi and Wurz were first out on track followed by the Minardis and the BAR of Takuma Sato.
Doornbos started the proceedings with a 1:36.529 but was quickly demoted by Wurz's 1:33.844. Sato took over second, with Doornbos third and Patrick Friesacher and Christijan Albers in fourth and fifth. Wurz improved to 1:33.633, leaving Sato and Liuzzi two seconds off the pace in second and third.
Toyota No.3 Zonta took over second and Red Bull's Christian Klien third, with his teammate David Coulthard slotting into fourth. Jenson Button's BAR demoted the pair when he moved into third then Kimi Raikkonen went fastest with a 1:33.297 for McLaren.
Giancarlo Fisichella and Alonso made the first appearance of the day for Renault, 12th and sixth respectively, and Ralf Schumacher was the first Toyota race driver to appear, eighth. Fisichella improved to ninth, followed by the Williams of Nick Heidfeld, who then leapfrogged the Renault for seventh.
Alonso climbed to fourth and Jacques Villeneuve was the first Sauber on track, down in the midfield. Michael Schumacher started Ferrari's afternoon with second quickest, just six hundredths down on the lead McLaren, and Jarno Trulli put his Toyota fifth.
De la Rosa took third, nine hundredths off teammate Raikkonen then Trulli went to the top, 1:33.295 -- a lead of two thousandths of a second. The top eight were separated by half a second at that point. Wurz put in a very quick lap to take the fastest time, 1:30.695, over two and a half seconds ahead of Trulli.
Felipe Massa had a good first timed effort to take seventh in the Sauber, then Coulthard improved to take the position. Button moved up to sixth after being shuffled down the order and Alonso to second, the gap from the Renault to Wurz 2.3 seconds.
At the back the Jordans and Minardis were scrapping for position, with Villeneuve stuck in the middle, and ahead of them Sato, Liuzzi and Heidfeld were rather quiet. Sato then came to a halt on track in the middle sector. Mark Webber took 14th, only to have Heidfeld promptly snatch it off him.
Ralf shot up to third from the midfield and Webber retaliated to take 14th back from Heidfeld. Michael likewise demoted Ralf from third but nobody at the front was getting much closer to Wurz. Villeneuve escaped from the clutches of the Jordans to take 16th and Alonso improved his time but the gap to Wurz was still a lengthy 1.5.
Halfway through and Rubens Barrichello was still in the garage. Button improved to fourth but had it taken away by Michael, then the action slowed down. Fisichella moved up to sixth and Heidfeld to 12th, while Alonso bought the gap to Wurz down by a couple of tenths.
Liuzzi, who had been idling near the back for a while, suddenly rocketed up to third in the final minutes. Sato improved to 12th and that was the end of the session -- Barrichello never made it out onto the track due to a gearbox problem. "It's a shame, because the two timed laps I did showed that the car was well balanced," said the Brazilian.
Wurz's time proved to be unbeatable and McLaren looks strong with de la Rosa and Raikkonen in the top eight as well. "Today was my first time driving the MP4-20 and although this was not in the usual testing circumstances it was nevertheless a great experience, and the car felt really good," Wurz remarked.
Renault looked competitive and Alonso was happy with his day. "I have no worries after the opening day: the car balance was pretty good, and we seemed quite quick," he commented. "However, we must be cautious with our choices here: we have only raced at this track once, and the conditions on Friday are very different to those we will meet in the Grand Prix."
Toyota wasn't slacking either but while Michael's Ferrari was quick in the earlier session, his lap times in the second were pretty much similar to the rest. However, while Friday is the first chance to see who's doing what, for the teams its mostly about tyre choices for the rest of the weekend so is not necessarily an indication of form.
Liuzzi was also quick but, of course, he and Wurz did not have the restraint of conserving their engines. "This morning I had to learn the circuit as it is my first time in Bahrain," said Liuzzi. "The track was quite sandy and dirty which made it a bit difficult. Then later this afternoon we had new tyres but I could not go too quickly as there was a lot of traffic. But after that we improved a lot and the lap times improved."
Apart from Tonio, the Red Bulls finished down the times but had been fairly reasonable during the session. BAR was more or less on a par with its previous Friday outings and Williams seemed rather conservative. "During today's practice sessions, both our drivers have been focusing on doing long runs in order to evaluate the two tyre compounds," said BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen.
The rest were unsurprising; Massa finished some six tenths faster than Villeneuve while Karthikeyan was the lead Jordan in 18th. Friesacher was the better of the two Minardis at the back -- nothing unusual, an average Friday. Final top eight classification: Wurz, Alonso, Liuzzi, de la Rosa, M. Schumacher, Trulli, Fisichella, Raikkonen.