Ferrari dominant on Day One 05 Mar 2004
Schumacher unbeatable in practice
In the second of Friday's two practice sessions Michael Schumacher did 15 laps and again set the fastest time in 1m 24,718s, leaving some rivals open-mouthed.
However, the big wobble the world champion had at the end of his fastest lap - he ran wide in the final corner and the Ferrari momentarily became completely airborne - was testament to just how hard he was trying. It was, some said, a deliberate attempt to out-psyche the opposition, but it was nonetheless impressive as team mate Rubens Barrichello backed things up with second fastest time of 1m 24.826s.
"Even if we drained all the fuel out, I'm not sure we could do those times," BAR chief David Richards said of Ferraris performance. "But we don't know what form anyone else was running in today, so we need to wait until tomorrow."
Many teams were doing race preparation, but some may have been trying for quick laps and saving their race preparation for tomorrow.
It was another good session for Renault, with Jarno Trulli third fastest on 1m 25.757s and Fernando Alonso fifth on 1m 27.853s, both happy with the performance of the sleek R24. Between them was Jenson Button, who was showing that BAR's winter test form was no flash in the pan with 1m 25.786s. Unfortunately his BAR 006 then stopped out on the circuit, with an as-yet undiagnosed problem. Team mate Takuma Sato had some dramas with a big spin and later on another off-course moment, and was only 12th on 1m 26.967s, which was three places ahead of Anthony Davidson on 1m 27.516s.
Behind those three teams, BMW Williams and McLaren Mercedes ended up sixth and seventh (Schumacher and Montoya) and eighth and 10th (Coulthard and Raikkonen). The Williams duos respective lap times of 1m 25.882s and 1m 26.206s were off the pace, and Montoya had a spin, but Williams habitually runs with decent fuel loads when doing such race preparation, so tomorrow will be a more valid comparison. At McLaren, Coulthard was happier with his MP4-19 than Raikkonen, lapping in 1m 26.215s to the Finn's 1m 26.579s.
Perhaps the surprise of the session was Mark Webber's ninth quickest time of 1m 26.312s. "We don't believe that we were sandbagging all winter," said delighted team boss Tony Purnell. "That's a good car, and we believe that more other teams were showboating." Christian Klien had a spin on his way to 17th fastest time of 1m 27.724s, leaving Bjorn Wirdheim 20th in the third R5 on 1m 28.781s.
Sauber Petronas drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa worked purely on race set-up for 11th (1m 26.601s) and 13th (1m 26.969s) respectively, the Brazilian recovering from the track time he lost in the morning session with a fuel pressure problem.
Toyota's best time was Ricardo Zonta's 1m 27.165s, the Brazilian having a point to prove as he survived a spin and lapped faster than team mates Cristiano da Matta (16th on 1m 27.710s) and Olivier Panis (1m 27.807s). Former CART champion da Matta had a spin and later came to a halt when his left rear Michelin was destroyed by a puncture.
Nick Heidfeld was Jordan's fastest man, in what Eddie Jordan described as a disappointing 19th place. The German lapped in 1m 27.826s. Team mate Giorgio Pantona didn't better 1m 30.061s and was later fined heavily for exceeding the pit lane speed limit by 2kph, while Timo Glock stopped after recording 1m 30.291s with a blown Ford engine.
Paul Stoddart's Minardis were 21st and 22nd, Gianmaria Bruni getting going with 1m 28.991s compared to Zsolt Baumgartner's 1m 29.708s.
For the results in full, including best sector and speed trap times, click here.