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Saturday free practice - Williams edge Ferrari 23 Aug 2003

(L to R): Ralf Schumacher (GER) Williams, Sam Michael (AUS) Williams Chief Operations Engineer in discussion with other Williams engineers.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring, Hungary, 23 August 2003

Ralf Schumacher continued his preparation as favourite for the Hungarian Grand Prix by setting fastest practice time this morning, but the big talk at the Hungaroring was the massive accident that befell Jordan driver Ralph Firman in the first session following a rear wing failure.

Schumacher lapped in 1m 21.939s on a track that was grippy in some places but very slippery wherever anyone had wandered from the racing line, and the situation was not helped by a breeze that blew dust on to the surface. The German complained of some understeer on his Williams, but dialled that out and said that his car was otherwise consistent throughout. Team mate Juan Pablo Montoya had some tyre graining problems initially, but was relatively happy with 1m 22.494s for fourth best time, the difference between him and Ralf possibly explained by their different driving styles.

Between them, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello boosted Ferrari morale with 1m 22.313s and 1n 22.467s respectively.

"We had a good session and have made our tyre choice," Ross Brawn reported. "The biggest question of all, however, is how the heat will affect tyre performance this afternoon and in the race."

Barrichello said that he had sacrificed some race set-up for qualifying performance, since grid positions are crucial here, and Schumacher concurred. "But we have found something in the set-up," the champion said. "It is not looking hopeless. Don't write us off."

In contrast, Mark Webber said he had sacrificed some qualifying edge in order to give his Jaguar a strong race set-up, but nevertheless managed fifth fastest time of 1m 22.848s, one second faster than team-mate Justin Wilson who was 13th, working solely on race set-up.

Kimi Raikkonen was sixth on 1m 22.876s but suffered a major engine failure at the end of the second session, while David Coulthard said he had a normal Saturday morning and wanted a slight improvement in his McLaren's balance. He was ninth on 1mn 23.293s.

Having been fastest in the first session, Fernando Alonso trimmed his time slightly to 1m 22.902s in the Renault and just edged out team mate Jarno Trulli who recorded 1m 23.074s. Neither driver was completely happy with his R23's balance.

Olivier Panis was 10th for Toyota, and reported again that while the TF103's balance was still good the overall grip level had fallen because of the changed track conditions, while Cristiano da Matta's spin this time was, he admitted quite freely, his own fault. He was 17th on 1m 24.401s as a result of losing the last 10 minutes because he spun into a gravel bed.

Jenson Button's 11th place for BAR on 1m 23.805s was an improvement for the team that hoisted it ahead of the 12th and 14th fastest Saubers of Nick Heidfeld (1m 23.838s) and Heinz-Harald Frentzen (1m 24.006s) and left him clear of team mate Jacques Villeneuve, who was 15th on 1m 24.154s.

After Firman's accident (he recorded 1m 26.618s prior to his accident), Giancarlo Fisichella was able to resume running once it had been determined that Firman's rear wing support had broken and that Fisichella's was okay. The Italian finished the morning 16th on 1m 24.343s.

At the back, Jos Verstappen's Minardi was wheeled back from the end of the pit lane in the second session when mechanics spotted an imminent failure of the rear wing, while Nicolas Keisa had some excursions on his way to a fastest time of 1m 27.188s from the first session. The Dane was the only driver except the absent Firman not to improve in the second session.

For the practice results in full, click here.