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Ferrari one-two in opening practice 05 Mar 2004

Engine covers for the Ferrari F2004.
Australian Grand Prix Preparations, Rd 1, Albert Park, Australia, 3 March 2004

World champions dominate Friday's first session

Two Ferraris, the two fastest times, almost a two second gap to the opposition. Has anything changed in Formula One?

You guessed it, don't read anything into the first practice times from Albert Park, where as expected teams' leading runners did minimal mileage and those teams with a third driver let him do the lion's share of the running.

Michael Schumacher needed only four laps to redefine the pace, with 1m 25.127s, backed by Rubens Barrichello's nine-lap run which yielded 1m 25.361s for second fastest time. Both of them made it look easy.

The Renaults were the next up, Jarno Trulli lapping in 1m 27.025s for third and Fernando Alonso, who spun in Turn 15, fifth on 1m 27.359s. They did 10 and 14 laps respectively, and the low ambient temperature may not have helped their Michelin tyres.

David Coulthard did only five laps, but boosted McLaren with fourth fastest time of 1m 27.264s. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was only 12th, on 1m 28.233s.

And Williams? Sixth and seventh, Montoya on 1m 27.462s, Ralf 1m 27.675s. They did 12 and 11 laps respectively.

Right behind them, Jenson Button was happy with 1m 27.867s for BAR, but where he did only seven laps, Friday tester Anthony Davidson, whose praise Button had sung the previous day, lived up to his colleague’s prediction by being the fastest Friday man on 1m 27.921s for ninth.

Mark Webber rounded out the top 10 for Jaguar with 1m 28.089s.

Toyota made a better showing than some had expected, with Friday man Ricardo Zonta 11th on 1m 28.118s during a 17-lap run.

Takuma Sato had an uneventful morning to lap in 1m 28.874s, just ahead of Cristiano da Matta's 1m 28.955s. That edged out Giancarlo Fisichella, who lapped his Sauber in 1m 29.120s for 15th fastest time. But team-mate Felipe Massa brought out the red flag early on when his C23 stopped after a lap and had to be retrieved on the back of a truck.

Olivier Panis was 16th on 1m 29.169s, heading Jordan's Nick Heidfeld on 1m 29.826s. Bjorn Wirdheim made his Formula One debut as Jaguar's third driver, beating Christian Klien by a fraction, 1m 30.033s to 1m 30.046s. Wirdheim managed 24 laps, a total which only Davidson beat. Fellow debutante Giorgio Pantano had one moment when he ran wide in Turn 9 in the Jordan, but was otherwise pleased with 1m 30.100s, while Timo Glock did a good job in the third yellow car with 1m 30.618s.

As expected, the Minardi duo of Zsolt Baumgartner and Gianmaria Bruni brought up the tail of the field with 1m 32.886s and 1m 33.236s respectively. Massa was right at the back, not having recorded a time.

Thus ended the first session of the 2004 season, but the only thing that was sure is that things would change in the second.