Friday practice review - Toyota in front 22 Aug 2003
Toyota staged a strong performance in this morning's first practice for Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, with Olivier Panis setting fastest time of 1m 21.770s and Cristiano da Matta backing him with fifth best time a second slower.
It was an interesting session for the veteran Frenchman, who had to brake very hard on the exit to Turn Nine at one stage when he was confronted by a spinning Michael Schumacher.
Panis's quick lap deposed pacesetter Juan Pablo Montoya, whose best time of 1m 22.59s remained third fastest and was almost matched by Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello. Both were beaten in the closing stages by Jarno Trulli, however, who managed 1m 22.464s for Renault while building on his experience from private testing.
Mark Webber was another late improver, taking sixth place for Jaguar with 1m 22.741s, but after his lack of running time on reasonable fuel loads in Germany, team mate Justin Wilson ran a heavier car and was only 18th on 1m 24.669s.
Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard and the troubled Michael Schumacher completed the runners in the 1m 22s, the world champion pushing hard to set his car up all through the session.
Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 for Renault with 1m 23.214s, followed by title contender Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 23.532 and Heinz-Harald Frentzen on 1m 23.586s. Nick Heidfeld in the sister Sauber car complained of poor balance and was only 17th on 1m 24.535s. Once again Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve proved evenly matched at BAR with respective time of 1m 23.723s and 1m 23.817s. A late improvement saw Giancarlo Fisichella make up ground for Jordan after his earlier engine failure. The Italian lapped in 1m 24.474s to edge ahead of team mate Ralph Firman on 1m 24.502s.
Jos Verstappen was the only Minardi driver to run, lapping in 1m 25.579s as partner Nicolas Kiesa's car was still having its engine changed after its breakage in private testing.
It should be borne in mind that Friday morning times can be misleading, as teams run differing fuel loads.
Besides Schumacher, Coulthard also spun, early in the session, but there was good news for the Scot immediately afterwards when McLaren confirmed that he will again partner Kimi Raikkonen in 2004. It will be the Scot's ninth season with the team. Paddock sources remain convinced that Juan Pablo Montoya will take the seat from 2005, however.
McLaren also confirmed that Alexander Wurz and Pedro de la Rosa will remain on its test driving squad.
"The McLaren Mercedes team strives to win world championships and in order to do that we have to have the best drivers available," said team principal Ron Dennis. "I believe we have achieved that objective."