Zonta leads in Malaysian GP first practice

Zonta leads in Malaysian GP first practice

Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta opened the proceedings at Sepang on Friday with the fastest time in the first practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix. His best was 1:34.092 and he was followed by two more third drivers; McLaren's Pedro de...

Toyota third driver Ricardo Zonta opened the proceedings at Sepang on Friday with the fastest time in the first practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix. His best was 1:34.092 and he was followed by two more third drivers; McLaren's Pedro de la Rosa and Red Bull's Vitantonio Liuzzi were second and third respectively.

Ricardo Zonta.
Photo by Toyota Racing.

Conditions were dry but humid, with the track temperature approximately 40 degrees and the air temperature some ten degrees lower as the pack came out for installation laps. Zonta was the first to put up a time after ten minutes, 1:39.159, which he quickly reduced to 1:38.814.

Liuzzi was next to set a flyer, three tenths down, and de la Rosa took over at the top with a 1:38.501, three tenths up on Zonta. Minardi's Patrick Friesacher was the first race driver to clock a time and was over eight seconds off the pace.

De la Rosa improved to 1:37.817, widening the gap to Zonta to a second, and Jordan's Narain Karthikeyan made it five on the time sheet. Friesacher and Karthikeyan improved but maintained their positions in fourth and fifth and Michael Schumacher put in an unusually early appearance to take second for Ferrari.

Karthikeyan moved ahead of Friesacher, as did the second Jordan of Tiago Monteiro. He was followed by the team's third driver Robert Doornbos, who went one better than Karthikeyan for fifth. Christijan Albers' Minardi joined in ninth as Monteiro and Doornbos traded places.

Doornbos then improved to fourth fastest and Mark Webber was the first Williams to set a time, his initial effort putting him third. De la Rosa upped his top time to 1:36.317 and Nick Heidfeld went one up on teammate Webber for second, 1.4 off the lead McLaren.

Michael took the position off Heidfeld, also over a second down, but was swiftly ousted by Liuzzi who was just nine thousandths off de la Rosa. Jacques Villeneuve put Sauber on the time sheet with 10th as the track temperature climbed a few degrees, and with 10 minutes to go half the field were yet to set a time.

Villeneuve improved to seventh and Red Bull's Christian Klien's first flyer put him fifth. Zonta clocked 1:34.092 to take over at the top, two seconds clear of de la Rosa. Takuma Sato was the first BAR out and went fourth, but teammate Jenson Button immediately took over the slot. Juan Pablo Montoya put his McLaren fifth and David Coulthard's Red Bull managed seventh.

Liuzzi improved to second, 1.5 off Zonta, and Felipe Massa clocked seventh for Sauber on his first lap out. Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari slotted into 14th, McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen posted fifth and Michael moved up to third. Ralf Schumacher was ninth for Toyota and at the close of the session de la Rosa narrowed the gap to Zonta to just over a second.

Both Renaults and the Toyota of Jarno Trulli did not set a time and, unsurprisingly, it was the third drivers that made most of the running. The gaps in the times were quite large; the top four were separated by two seconds, rising to three seconds to Massa and Webber at the edge of the top ten.

Barrichello and Villeneuve were nearly four seconds off Zonta in the midfield, the Jordan's took it to over six and the Minardis well over nine seconds adrift of the fastest time. But it's early days yet. Final top eight classification: Zonta, de la Rosa, Liuzzi, M. Schumacher, Button, Heidfeld, Raikkonen, Montoya.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Toyota Racing , Minardi , Jordan