Friday practice review - Trulli sets early pace 10 Oct 2003
Only Jarno Trulli proved able to resist Michael Schumacher in the Japanese Grand Prix's Friday practice session this morning. The Italian honed his Renault following his third fastest time in private testing, and continually improved to post the best time of 1m 30.727s.
Both Schumacher and Ferrari team mate Rubens Barrichello were in strong form. The world champion lapped in 1m 31.009s - faster than his 2002 pole position time of 1m 31.317s - while the Brazilian frequently set the fastest sector one time but aborted laps as he refined his set-up. He finally lapped in 1m 31.217s for fourth fastest time.
Splitting the two red cars was an on-form David Coulthard, who looked his old self as he steered his McLaren to 1m 31.019s to overshadow championship-contending team mate Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was sixth fastest on 1m 31.303s.
Fernando Alonso generally trailed Trulli throughout the session, but had just set the fastest sector one time when he spun at the Spoon Curve in the final moments of the session.
Neither Williams really got into the groove. Juan Pablo Montoya was seventh fastest on 1m 31.654s, while Ralf Schumacher was only 11th on 1m 32.208s. Mark Webber was the final runner under 1m 32, with 1m 31.977s for Jaguar.
The Toyotas are going well, and Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta proved well matched in ninth and 10th places with 1m 32.011s and 1m 32.133s respectively.
The session began in disastrous fashion for Jenson Button and BAR. The Briton's ninth lap was a 1m 34.445s, while his new team mate Takuma Sato's 10th was a 1m 34.357s. But even before Button could begin to redress that his new Honda V10 engine blew up as he exited the chicane. By the time he rolled to a halt by the pit wall, the rear end of the car was beginning to catch fire. Sato later improved to 1m 32.295s for 12th best time.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen lapped in 1m 32.422s for Sauber and team mate Nick Heidfeld backed him with 1m 32.694s to head Jaguar's Justin Wilson, the final man below the 1m 33s bracket with 1m 32.735s for 15th position.
Ralph Firman used all his considerable Suzuka experience to beat Jordan team mate Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 33.306s to 1m 33.9456s, Button's 1m 34.445s left him 18th, and the two Minardis brought up the rear. Jos Verstappen lapped in 1m 35.180s, with Nicolas Kiesa improving his private testing time to 1m 35.900s.
Click here for the practice results in full.