Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta topped the times in the second Friday practice session for the Italian Grand Prix with a best of 1:20.531, but the McLarens were still looking ominous. Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen were second and third...
Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta topped the times in the second Friday practice session for the Italian Grand Prix with a best of 1:20.531, but the McLarens were still looking ominous. Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen were second and third respectively and third driver Pedro de la Rosa was the fastest man of the day overall with his quickest of 1:20.201 in the morning.
The good conditions from the morning continued in the second session, with the track temperature up to the mid forties at the start. De la Rosa led out, followed by Jordan, Toyota, Minardi and Red Bull third drivers Nicolas Kiesa, Zonta, Enrico Toccacelo and Tonio Liuzzi. It was short lived for Kiesa as his Jordan almost immediately came to a halt in the middle sector with a suspected engine failure.
De la Rosa set to work straight away with a 1:24.944 and Zonta followed into second. De la Rosa dropped his time to 1:23.683 and Liuzzi took second, then was demoted by Zonta who was over two seconds off de la Rosa. Toccacelo posted fourth and de la Rosa improved again to 1:22.729. Luizzi went back to second but was once again ousted by Zonta, both over a second off the McLaren.
Robert Doornbos' Minardi joined in fourth but immediately lost the position to Sauber's Felipe Massa. De la Rosa was still churning out fast laps, his next a 1:22.458, and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari arrived in fifth. He was swiftly followed by the second Sauber of Jacques Villeneuve into sixth. Massa climbed one to third but was then demoted by Jenson Button's BAR.
Zonta improved his time but stayed second and Massa took back the third spot from Button. The Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello joined eighth and Jarno Trulli was the first Toyota racer to set a timed lap for the day in fourth. Button again took third and Michael improved to fourth, as did Barrichello to fifth. The Williams of Nick Heidfeld posted eighth and Trulli moved up to the third spot.
De la Rosa was still out there, his time now 1:22.132, and still no-one was within a second of him. Heidfeld improved to sixth and Button retook the popular third slot, then Raikkonen finally ousted de la Rosa with a 1:21.857. Trulli demoted Button for third and the second Toyota of Ralf Schumacher took fourth. Raikkonen lowered his time to 1:21.735 but de la Rosa also improved and the gap was two tenths.
The Williams of Mark Webber arrived in fifth then Montoya took third to make it a rather familiar McLaren one-two-three at the top of the times, within half a second. Takuma Sato's BAR clocked 10th and further down the field Tiago Monteiro was leading Jordan teammate Narain Karthikeyan in 16th and 17th, while Christijan Albers was leading the trio of Minardis in 18th.
Giancarlo Fisichella was the first Renault to set a time for the day and clocked fourth -- seven tenths off Raikkonen -- while Barrichello improved to seventh after being moved down the times. Likewise, Zonta went up to sixth and Michael to fifth. Fisichella improved his time on the next couple of laps but only marginally and stayed fourth.
Michael's afternoon was cut short when his Ferrari went off track at the Parabolica and had contact with the tyre barrier. It wasn't a big shunt but the car was damaged and it was day over for the German. After a brief yellow flag period the action resumed and Liuzzi was the first mover, up to 12th after being shuffled down the order.
Webber improved to third, Villeneuve to 10th and Heidfeld to fourth in rapid succession, then Raikkonen was on a fastest yet flyer but aborted it in the last sector. David Coulthard's Red Bull started with a lowly 21st, while teammates Christian Klien and Liuzzi were 14th and 15th respectively. Renault's Fernando Alonso went out for his first flyer of the day and posted ninth.
Coulthard improved to 15th and Alonso to seventh but the Spaniard was eight tenths down on title rival Raikkonen, who still held the top spot. Massa climbed to 12th after being moved down the order then Montoya took over at the top, 1:21.583 for a tenth and a half up on Raikkonen. Zonta suddenly woke up and shot to the top with a 1:21.409, just under two tenths up on Montoya, and Liuzzi improved to eighth.
Zonta stayed out and shaved a couple of tenths off his time for 1:21.203 and Liuzzi also went up again, one more to seventh. Doornbos took over the lead of the Minardi/Jordan gang at the back in 20th, just behind Coulthard and the pair of BARs, who were busy racking up the laps but not clocking fast times. Monteiro took over from Doornbos but it was fairly quiet towards the end of the session.
In the last five minutes Klien improved to 10th and Zonta set fastest sectors across the board to clock 1:20.531, a second up on the McLarens, and there he stayed at the end of the practice. "We improved the car a lot for the second practice," said Zonta. "We found something good on the tyres, too. We know that this could be a difficult track for us, but we've made good progress today."
McLaren was again well on the pace but Williams stuck with them, half a second separating Montoya in second and Heidfeld in sixth. "We were quick here today and are looking strong and consistent, so it is a positive start to the weekend," Montoya remarked. "There is still a long way to go, and we have to remain reliable throughout the weekend to achieve the result that our times today promise."
Renault didn't look particularly quick, a second off the McLarens, but engineering chief Pat Symonds was not unduly troubled. "The circuit conditions caught us out slightly, as the track temperatures were several degrees higher than at (last week's) test and this had an impact on the balance of the cars," he said. "Overall, though, the order seems fairly typical -- and we are in our usual Friday positions, on the edge of the top ten."
It's hard to guess what the state of play might be as all the teams tested at Monza last week and therefore a certain amount of set up work and tyre assessment will already have been done. BAR was lapping towards the back of the mid-field this afternoon but they haven't been lacking in pace in the last couple of races, so it's not really evident what people were up to today.
McLaren is damn fast, that much is obvious, but then again McLaren has been damn fast for some time so it's not exactly a surprise. Renault looked further off the pace than it should be but was Friday really a reliable indication of the difference between them? Final top eight classification: Zonta, Montoya, Raikkonen, de la Rosa, Webber, Heidfeld, Liuzzi, Trulli.