Reigning Champion Michael Schumacher provoked a stirr at Melbourne on Friday as he led the field in last year’s F2001 at the end of Friday’s two one-hour free practice sessions. ( Session Times / Friday Photos )
Schumacher was a healthy half second ahead of his Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello while brother Ralf Schumacher was a further second adrift of Barrichello. Juan Pablo Montoya rounded off some encouraging progress for Williams as he finished the day 0.05s behind his team mate.
[photo2]Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld ironically out-paced his former team mate who beat him to the McLaren seat for 2002 as the Sauber finished 0.4s, and two positions ahead of the McLaren of Räikkönen. The pair were separated by the Toyota of Mika Salo who claimed sixth place at the end of the Japanese company’s first F1 outing. Salo’s team mate, Allan McNish ended the day sixteenth, a second behind the Finn.
Track temperature rose considerably for the start of the second session as the track dried out from earlier showers, although clouds still loomed over the Albert Park circuit.
Ten minutes had passed and Enrique Bernoldi was the first driver to suffer a technical failure in the second session as his Cosworth-powered Arrows slowed and forced the Brazilian to pull off the circuit. Moments later Rubens Barrichello spun through 360 degrees across the grass before regaining the track in the Ferrari.
[photo3]Half-way through the session Juan Pablo Montoya outbraked himself and was forced to take to an escape road, finding his way around the gravel trap and then back onto the racetrack.
With twenty minutes of the session remaining the rain began to spatter on the track again catching Minardi’s Alex Yoong out as the Malaysian found himself stranded in the gravel trap at turn 1. The shower is light and short lived, though, allowing drivers to continue setting competitive times.
Ten minutes remained when the Honda engine in the back of Giancarlo Fisichella’s Jordan EJ12 went boom! causing the Italian to pull of the circuit and end his session prematurely. Soon after team mate Takuma Sato took a trip across the gravel, but managed to regain the circuit as Michael Schumacher improved his lead time to 1m27.276s.
[photo4]McLaren’s David Coulthard ended the day eleventh – not a true indication of where he will be come qualifying as the McLaren team played their cards very close to their chest.
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