BAR third driver sets early pace at Hockenheim
BAR's Anthony Davidson was fastest in this mornings first practice session for the German Grand Prix after a scrap with world champion Michael Schumacher, but ended up walking back to the pits after his car stopped near the hairpin in the closing minutes.
The conditions were perfect when the session began, with plenty of warmth and humidity and a bone dry, albeit green track on which only the Trofeo Maseratis had thus far been run this weekend.
Ricardo Zonta was the first man to record a time, 1m 20.561s for Toyota, comfortably slower than Juan Pablo Montoyas 1m 14.917s pole time from 2003 and Michael Schumachers outright pole record of 1m 14.389s in 2002.
The new Toyota, incidentally, is a very nice piece of work, with a narrower nose and re-profiled sidepods, allied to the latest specification RVX-04 V10 engine which boasts some weight reduction allied to a two percent power increase. This was to have appeared first at Monza but Luca Marmorini and his team worked flat-out to introduce it three races early. The engine is mounted lower in the chassis and thus further reduces the centre of gravity. Although the basic TF104B ran at Jerez last week, this marked the first time that it had run with all of its new aerodynamic parts.
Interestingly, returnee Antonio Pizzonia was very quickly into his rhythm in the Williams, setting second fastest lap of 1m 17.314s initially (0.050s off Zontas best at that time), within six laps.
As is his Friday trademark, Schumacher came out and immediately redefined Juan Pablo Montoyas fastest time of 1m 16.795s for Williams with a lap in 1m 15.864s for Ferrari. Then Giancarlo Fisichella followed suit for Sauber, with third-fastest 1m 16.451s in only five laps.
With 18 minutes to go the session was red flagged after Timo Glock understeered into the dirt on the exit to the stadium and showered the track with his Jordans front wing and associated structure. Immediately afterwards Davidson banged in the fastest time of 1m 15.756s, to pip Schumacher by 0.108s. Shortly afterwards, Kimi Raikkonen did a Michael with third fastest 1m 16.318s for McLaren, after sitting out almost the entire session.
Zontas eventual 1m 16.340s stood up for fourth, Fisichellas time for fifth, and Olivier Panis gave Toyota further cause for optimism with sixth fastest 1m 16.484s ahead of Rubens Barrichello on 1m 16.493s. Jenson Button had a relatively quiet time with 1m 16.544s, Montoyas best lap left him ninth, and Pizzonias promising return saw him whittle down to 1m 16.845s right in his team mates wheeltracks.
In 11th place David Coulthard rounded out the drivers beneath the 1m 17s barrier with 1m 16.916s. Cristiano da Matta was 12th on 1m 17.111s, ahead of the Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli which were separated by Felipe Massas Sauber, their respective times being 1m 17.142s, 1m 17.487s and 1m 17.361s.
Takuma Sato kept his powder dry with 1m 17.526s for 16th, followed by Bjorn Wirdheims Jaguar on 1m 17.714s. It was impossible not to feel sympathy for Nick Heidfeld, down in 18th place on 1m 18.257s for Jordan, after his hopes of racing for Williams here fell apart last week. The German edged out team mate Glock, who lapped in 1m 18.768s before stopping at Turn 4 with mechanical problems right at the end. The third Jordan driver, Giorgio Pantano, was 24th on 1m 20.029s. Christian Klien, Gianmaria Bruni, Bas Leinders and Zsolt Baumgartner (who spun in Turn 6) separated the Italian from his partners, on 1m 18.810s, 1m 19.088s, 1m 19.270 and 1m 19.959s respectively.
Mark Webber did not set a time, after suffering mechanical problems on his Jaguar after one lap.
This afternoon we should have a better idea of who was really pulling their punches this morning.