Raikkonen edges Fisichella in closely-fought session
Kimi Raikkonen was fastest by just 0.005s in the opening day of the British Grand Prix meeting. It was an interesting afternoon practice, with the Finn pipping Sauber's Giancarlo Fisichella by a mere five-thousandths of a second for the quickest time.
And just in case you might think that others had trouble, the top six was filled out by Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.
Anthony Davidson set the ball rolling with 1m 21.533s, which was beaten in turn by Coulthard (1m 21.110s), Barrichello (1m 20.727s), Schumacher (1m 20.615s then 1m 20.021s) and then Coulthard again (1m 19.451s). Raikkonen went to the top with his 1m 19.001s, which defied Buttons 1m 19.401s, and a couple of quickest from Schumacher (1m 19.300s, then 1m 19.162s). Then, just to rub it in, Raikkonen lowered his time to 1m 18.655s. That withstood all other attacks, but Fisichella came mighty close with his 1m 18.660s.
What does it all mean? Well, McLaren have clearly made some decent progress with the MP4-19B, which now works well. And Saubers new lowline engine cover has transformed the car, according to Fisichella, who said it was the biggest step the team have taken all season. The fly in the Swiss teams ointment, however, is that Fisichellas problem this morning was engine-related, so whatever he does tomorrow hell be hit with a 10 grid-place penalty.
It was a less promising session for Williams, with Marc Gene as their best runner in seventh place with 1m 19.540s. Juan Pablo Montoya was only 11th in an understeering car, with 1m 19.746s. In between the two team mates came Jarno Trulli (1m 19.601s), Takuma Sato (1m 19.611s), and Felipe Massa (1m 19.676s). With Alonso 12th on 1m 19.874s that makes 10 of the top 12 cars within the same second bracket.
The three Toyotas were 13th, 14th and 15th (Zonta, 1m 20.095s; Panis, 1m 20.489s; and da Matta, 1m 20.829s), while Davidsons 1m 20.861s came just before his BAR rolled to a standstill at Brooklands mid-way through.
The Jaguars were also in line astern, with Christian Klien just acing Mark Webber and Bjorn Wirdheim, 1m 21.073s to 1m 21.353s and 1m 21.353s.
Nick Heidfeld was the top Jordan this time with 1m 22.365s, ahead of Timo Glock on 1m 22.500s, then Minardis Gianmaria Bruni pushed ahead of Giorgio Pantanos 1m 22.586s with 1m 22. 516s. Glock was lucky to escape with just a bouncing when the left rear wheel centre tore out of his Jordan as he sped through Bridge flat-out with eight minutes to go; the German went flying backwards into the gravel bed in spectacular fashion but was unharmed.
Finally, Minardi third driver Bas Leinders beat team mate Zsolt Baumgartner, 1m 22.792s to 1m 23.436s.