Saturday free practice review 28 Jun 2003
To the delight of the numerous Toyota employees brought to the Nurburging from Cologne to watch 'their' cars in action, Olivier Panis staked his claim early to the fastest practice time (see note at end of report) at the Nurburgring today, in the first of two separate three-quarter hour sessions. Ralf Schumacher was fastest in the second for Williams, but his 1m 31.305s was overshadowed by the Frenchman's earlier 1m 31.181s.
"Everything went really well, we did tyre evaluation and race preparation and it all went according to the programme," Panis said cheerfully. "The car was pretty competitive in the conditions, and I just hope that we don't have a repeat of yesterday's weather problems."
Schumacher was equally happy and described his Williams as being "almost perfect, apart from a slight degree of nervousness." With team mate Juan Pablo Montoya third on 1m 31.366s, the team is feeling very cheerful. "We are very confident for qualifying and the race," chief operations engineer Sam Michael said.
Montoya began the day unhappy with his FW25's degree of understeer, which grained the front tyres, and a bottoming problem, but set-up changes mainly centred on the rear suspension prompted him later to describe the car as "almost perfect," just as his partner had.
McLaren took fourth and fifth place, with David Coulthard ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. The Scot lapped in 1m 31.608s, the Finn 1m 32.021s. "We did a lot of valuable preparation work and I'm quite happy with that," Coulthard said, before freely admitting that he dies not enjoy single-lap qualifying. "One lap defines whether you are quick or not," he said, "and I don't like that."
Raikkonen said he preferred the way his car was set-up yesterday, and that he would revert to that for qualifying.
Rubens Barrichello was sixth for Ferrari, and Michael Schumacher 10th, neither of them completely happy. The Brazilian lapped in 1m 32.039s, the German 1m 32.652s. "We are well set for the race," the world champion said, "and as for qualifying, the amount of fuel will be decisive."
Cristiano da Matta was relatively happy with seventh place, albeit troubled by more understeer than Panis who had a similar set-up, and the Renaults were eighth and ninth with Jarno Trulli again fractionally ahead of Fernando Alonso. Both said that though they had cut down yesterday's understeer the balance of their cars was still not perfect, which prevented them from getting the best out of their Michelin tyres.
Jaguar was 11th and 14th courtesy of Antonio Pizzonia and Mark Webber, the latter spinning in the final corner and being forced to abandon his stalled car. Jenson Button was 13th despite losing a lot of time with a gearbox problem, and fellow Britons Ralph Firman and Justin Wilson were delayed respectively by engine failure and a fuel pressure problem.
With rain expected this afternoon, there is a good chance that the slower runners in qualifying will benefit from a dry track while the quicker drivers may find themselves hamstrung by the expected deluge.
NOTE: Saturday morning's two 45-minute practice sessions at the Nurburgring were timed separately. The above report uses cumulative times (see timesheet below) from the two sessions in order to determine a definitive order.
Cumulative Saturday practice times:
1. Olivier Panis - 1.31.181
2. Ralf Schumacher - 1.31.305
3. Juan Pablo Montoya - 1.31.366
4. David Coulthard - 1.31.608
5. Kimi Raikkonen - 1.32.021
6. Rubens Barrichello - 1.32.039
7. Cristiano da Matta - 1.32.057
8. Jarno Trulli - 1.32.356
9. Fernando Alonso - 1.32.391
10. Michael Schumacher - 1.32.652
11. Antonio Pizzonia - 1.33.076
12. Giancarlo Fisichella - 1.33.214
13. Jenson Button - 1.33.474
14. Mark Webber - 1.33.635
15. Nick Heidfeld - 1.33.698
16. Jacques Villeneuve - 1.34.085
17. Heinz-Harald Frentzen - 1.34.775
18. Ralph Firman - 1.34.827
19. Jos Verstappen - 1.36.026
20. Justin Wilson - 1.36.381