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Friday free practice review - Austria 16 May 2003

David Coulthard (GBR) McLaren is interviewed for television.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Austrian Grand Prix, Preparations, A1-Ring, Austria, 15 May 2003

If this morning's free practice session at the A1-Ring is anything to go by, qualifying this afternoon should be fascinating. Through the course of the morning Jarno Trulli, Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya, Michael Schumacher and, finally, David Coulthard, all had turns heading the timesheets.

This is, of course, only the first session of the weekend and this is a track where the build-up of rubber on the smooth surface habitually leads to changes in car behaviour as a session progresses.

In the end Montoya, for example, ended up only 10th on 1m 09.530s. Kimi Raikkonen, running a different programme to Coulthard, was 14th on 1m 10.019s, just behind Ralf Schumacher who was but one of many drivers to have off-road moments. In the German's case it was at Turn 8, twice. Brother Michael, who was fourth fastest on 1m 08.968s, also went off track twice, once in Turn 9 and later in Turn 1. He also flat-spotted his right front Bridgestone with some heavy braking for the Remus corner.

Nick Heidfeld got all four wheels on the grass in Turn 9, where team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen later spun, but the younger German (who celebrated his recent birthday at a sponsor function last night) is pleased thus far to find his hopes realised that the circuit favours the Sauber C22 the way it did the C20 and C21 in seasons past. He was eighth fastest, Frentzen 11th.

Rubens Barrichello, Antonio Pizzonia, Cristiano da Matta and Justin Wilson also went awry, in Turns 2, 9, 5 and 2 respectively.

At the end of the session Coulthard asserted his authority with a lap of 1m 08.836s, which was promising for McLaren since the next two runners, Trulli on 1m 08.944s and Pizzonia on 1m 08.961s, had already had the benefit of two hours' worth of private testing this morning. Notably, other private testers, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso, were fifth and sixth behind Michael Schumacher.

Besides Sauber, BAR also enjoyed a good run, with Villeneuve and Jenson Button at one time first and third sandwiching Michael Schumacher. The Englishman was eventually seventh overall, the French-Canadian ninth.

The indications are that Toyota have work to do, with da Matta and Olivier Panis only 17th and 18th respectively, ahead of the Minardis. On this occasion Jos Verstappen had the upper hand over Wilson, by a tenth of a second.