Honda-powered team bring the fight to Ferrai
Jenson Button heads practice two at Imola, though Michael Schumacher remains fastest overall after first day of running.
Anthony Davidson set the ball rolling for this afternoon's free practice session in Imola, and fittingly his team mates Jenson Button and Takuma Sato ended it by keeping BAR at the top of the time sheets. It was an impressive display that tended to underline the team's growing menace, though it remains to be seen tomorrow what respective fuel loads everyone was running.
Once again the track temperature fluctuated a lot in second practice, this time going as low as 22 degrees Celsius and as high as 25. Ultimately Button did not go quite as fast as Michael Schumacher did this morning (1m 20.084s), but his 1m 20.966s was the only lap to breach the 1m 21s barrier. The Englishman is on a roll at the moment after setting fastest times in Bahrain and again in testing in Spain and France in between races, and Sato backed him fully with a lap of 1m 21.159s to keep Schumacher's Ferrari down in third place. The fact that the world champion ended his session with a few minutes to spare suggests that, as usual, Ferrari had their programme well under control, but BAR could still be their closest challenger tomorrow.
Behind the German's 1m 21.164s came Kimi Raikkonen, whose McLaren ran well to 1m 21.586s, while Jarno Trulli was again Renault's lead runner on 1m 21.604s. The Anglo-French car was oversteering rather more than others in the final corner, however, and team mate Fernando Alonso finished the afternoon in eighth place on 1m 21.788s.
Davidson held on to record sixth best time, his 1m 21.643s edging out Juan Pablo Montoya's 1m 21.661s in the better-placed Williams. Team mate Ralf Schumacher was only 10th on 1m 22.057s, right behind David Coulthard's McLaren on 1m 21.795s.
Suggesting that Ferrari were using the session to do some further set-up work rather than focussing wholly on quick lap times, Rubens Barrichello was down in 11th place on 1m 22.096s, compared to his 1m 21.443s lap this morning. Certainly, the atmosphere at Ferrari is serene at present.
Mark Webber was happy with his Jaguar's performance and 12th best time. 1m 22.167s put him ahead of Toyota twins Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta who recorded 1m 22.768s and 1m 22.780s respectively. Their Friday driving partner, Ricardo Zonta, stopped out at Turn 14 when, according to the Brazilian, "something broke," but it was not the engine.
Both Sauber drivers were happy with the consistency of their C23s in race trim, but were still struggling for grip on their first lap on new tyres. Felipe Massa was marginally quicker than Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 23.043s to 1m 23.335s. Separating them was Christian Klien, who has yet to recapture his Bahrain form and had to settle for 1m 23.211s in his Jaguar. That at least put him ahead of team mate Bjorn Wirdheim, who was 18th on 1m 23.470s.
Behind Zonta in 19th place were the Jordans of Nick Heidfeld and Giorgio Pantano. The German posted 1m 23.866s but the Italian was again close with 1m 24.091s.
This time Minardi regulars Gianmaria Bruni and Zsolt Baumgartner were close, with 1m 25.653s and 1m 25.760 respectively, leaving the teams third driver Bas Leinders 24th on 1m 27.025s. Jordan's Timo Glock did not run because of technical problems.
So can BAR continue to carry the fight to Ferrari tomorrow? The odds favour the home team, but BAR's performance today certainly added to the excitement at Imola.