Australian GP: Friday recap

Equal-Record Friday Crowd As Webber Makes Grand Prix Debut And Ferrari Head Pack A record-equalling crowd of 81,000 spectators attended the second day of the 2002 Foster's Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne's Albert Park today as the ...

Equal-Record Friday Crowd As Webber Makes Grand Prix Debut And Ferrari Head Pack

A record-equalling crowd of 81,000 spectators attended the second day of the 2002 Foster's Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne's Albert Park today as the country's new Formula One driver, Mark Webber, made his debut and Ferrari set the pace in practice.

Today's attendance was up 600 from the second day of last year's Grand Prix and equalled the second-day record crowd at Melbourne's first world championship Grand Prix in 1996.

"It's terrific to see the fans out in force as Mark Webber steps on to the world stage," Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief executive John Harnden said.

"Ferrari are looking good, with Michael Schumacher topping the practice time sheets, but I think all eyes of the Australian fans were on Mark as he hit the track in his Minardi for the first time at a Grand Prix.

"With the weather expected to improve and the all-important qualifying session at 1pm Saturday, after two more practice sessions in the morning, we look forward to a 'Super Saturday'."

Rookies Allan McNish (Scotland, Toyota), Takuma Sato (Japan, Jordan) and Webber led the field on to the Albert Park track when practice began at 11am.

McNish's teammate in the new Toyota team, Finn Mika Salo, finished the day's two practice sessions sixth on the timesheets, behind German four-time world champion Schumacher and his Ferrari teammate, Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, followed by the BMW-Williams cars of Ralf Schumacher and Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya and German Nick Heidfeld's Sauber.

Finn Kimi Raikkonen was seventh in his first Grand Prix outing in a McLaren, followed by the Brazilian rookie who has replaced him in the Sauber team, Felipe Massa.

Webber finished the day 20th of the 22 drivers, ahead of Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi (Arrows) and Malaysian Alex Yoong (Minardi).

Friday night's Grand Prix Ball saw tributes to four-time world champion Michael Schumacher and Aussie rookie Mark Webber - and the comeback of Australian rock icons, the Original Little River Band.

Glenn Shorrock, Beeb Birtles and Graeham Goble belted out such LRB hits as Help, Lonesome Loser and Reminiscing for the 1,100 guests. They demanded an encore, which culminated with a rendition of My Sweet Lord - the classic song of George Harrison, the Beatle who lost his battle with cancer late last year and who had been a great fan of Grand Prix racing, especially in Australia.

A Ralf Schumacher helmet was auctioned for $18,000 and a Mark Webber helmet for $16,000, with the money going to the Grand Prix charity Open Family.

-apg-

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About this article
Series Supercars , Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Sauber , Williams