Grim conditions for first practice in Japan 08 Oct 2004
As anticipated Suzuka was soaked this morning, to the point where most teams sent their drivers out purely for installation laps for much of first practice, preferring to save their prime effort until the dying minutes of the rain-drenched session.
Jarno Trulli was prepared to make an early effort, however, as he acclimatised himself more to the Toyota TF104B. The Italian was fastest initially, lapping in 1m 59.148s. Behind him, the enthusiastic Bas Leinders lapped his Minardi in 2m 01.574s, and Robert Doornbos took his Jordan to 2m 01.574s.
With 10 minutes to go more cars ventured out, and suddenly there was a flurry of new times. Michael Schumacher ended the session fastest on 1m 47.906s, but Giancarlo Fisichellas Sauber was only 0.456s behind. Rubens Barrichello was third on 1m 49.846s and Jenson Button was right with him for BAR with 1m 49.937s.
Nick Heidfeld slipped in a quick lap for Jordan at the end for fifth on 1m 51.438s to edge out his old Sauber team mate Kimi Raikkonens 1m 51.530s for McLaren, Timo Glock managed 1m 52.602s in the other Jordan, and Juan Pablo Montoya posted 1m 53.517s for eighth. Doornbos improved to 1m 53.603s and Fernando Alonso on 1m 54.012s completed the top 10.
Leinders eventual 1m 55.455s was good enough for 11th, ahead of Ralf Schumacher (1m 55.632s), Jacques Villeneuve (1m 57.547s), Trulli (1m 58.351s), Anthony Davidson (2m 00.712s), Gianmaria Bruni (2m 02.825s) and spinner Zsolt Baumgartner (2m 03.955s) completed the runners.
Felipe Massa went off on his out lap for Sauber, damaging his front right suspension after spinning, while Olivier Panis, Mark Webber, Christian Klien, Takuma Sato, David Coulthard, Bjorn Wirdheim and Ryan Briscoe confined themselves to installation laps only.
Doornbos, Trulli and Leinders did the most laps, 10 apiece.
This afternoon, expect more of the same as Suzuka braces itself for the arrival of Typhoon 22 tomorrow.