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Friday free practice review - Spain 02 May 2003

Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams in the press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Imola, Italy, 19 April 2003

Several drivers traded fastest time during this morning's first official practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix. The honour finally went to Ralf Schumacher for BMW Williams, with a time of 1m 17.015s, but Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso had turns for Renault and Toyota's Cristiano da Matta also sat at the top of the timesheets.

Trulli built on his private testing foundation to lap in 1m 17.138s, with his local hero team-mate right behind him on 1m 17.184s. A late improvement saw David Coulthard vault up to fourth for McLaren Mercedes on 1m 17.209s, ahead of Olivier Panis on 1m 17.220s. Juan Pablo Montoya was sixth on 1m 17.897s, just ahead of Mark Webber who outpaced team-mate Antonio Pizzonia in this session with 1m 17.933s. The Brazilian nevertheless showed an upturn in performance by taking 11th fastest time of 1m 18.350s.

Between them, Jenson Button continued to get the better of Jacques Villeneuve for BAR Honda, with 1m 17.966s, and da Matta's 1m 18.101s was ultimately good enough for ninth.

Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello spent the morning acclimatising themselves to driving the new Ferrari F2003-GA at a race meeting as opposed to a test session. The Brazilian was the faster, 1m 18.303s being good enough for 10th place. Schumacher did 1m 18.738s for only 15th fastest time but is quietly confident. You have to go back to 1998 since Ferrari last failed to win first time out with a new car.

Other good performances came from Ralph Firman (whose Van Diemen race car-building father is here to watch this weekend), who was 12th fastest for Jordan Ford on 1m 18.639s, faster than Fisichella who was 16th.

Kimi Raikkonen had a poor session, which ended down in 18th place after mechanical problems with his McLaren Mercedes, while Justin Wilson again showed Jos Verstappen the way round at Minardi.