BAR third driver sets the early practice pace
Considering how long the lap is at Spa, the times from this mornings opening practice session in Belgium are incredibly close.
Anthony Davidson staked his claim to Jenson Buttons BAR seat by setting the best time of 1m 45.104s, seeing off the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. The champion lapped in 1m 45.408s, but two subsequent efforts failed to improve and he aborted a third at the end. Barrichello was close behind, with 1m 45.605s. All of them comfortably eclipsed Schumachers 1m 47.176s lap record, but his 2002 pole time of 1m 43.726s remained intact, for the time being.
It was also a very promising morning for Jaguar, with all three of the green racers in the top 10. Bjorn Wirdheim was fourth with 1m 46.658s, Mark Webber seventh on 1m 46.782s and Christian Klien eighth on 1m 46.809s. Mixed in between them were Kimi Raikkonen, who lapped his McLaren in 1m 46.674s in only one run, after going out very late, and Fernando Alonso, who took his Renault round in 1m 46.679s.
Antonio Pizzonia was ninth for Williams in 1m 47.083s, and the top 10 was completed by the impressive Ryan Briscoe, who did a beautiful job of steering his Toyota to 1m 47.506s. This edged out Button, who did little running and seemed set to beat Schumachers fastest time at one stage before a small indiscretion lost him time in sector two. He lapped in 1m 47.511s, which left him ahead of early pacesetter Juan Pablo Montoya who was set to improve on his 1m 47.560s best before aborting his final lap as the chequered flag came out.
Takuma Sato literally went out with just over five minutes left, to lap in 1m 47.618s for 13th time ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 47.648s) and David Coulthard (1m 47.650s). Felipe Massa was 16th on 1m 47.765s, with Jarno Trulli completing the runners below 1m 48s with 1m 47.829s.
Ricardo Zonta and Olivier Panis lapped their Toyotas in 1m 48.642s and 1m 48.834s respectively for 18th and 19th places, and the remaining six drivers were separated by eight-tenths of a second. Giorgio Pantano attacked Spa with gusto to lap his Jordan in 1m 50.165s for 20th, ahead of local boy Bas Leinders who showed a clean pair of heels to Minardi team mates Gianmaria Bruni and Zsolt Baumgartner. The Flemish driver lapped in 1m 50.311s, the Italian in 1m 50.531s, and the Hungarian in 1m 50.950s. Timo Glock was 22nd on 1m 50.317s in his Jordan, with an unhappy Nick Heidfeld 24th on 1m 50.805s.
The sole incident occurred when Pantano spun his Jordan at La Source and had to push it away to the old pit exit, but Alonso and Schumacher got the entry to the new Bus Stop chicane wrong.
The times will doubtless plummet if the thus-far clement weather continues. It seems as if it will as the sky, though overcast, looks settled, but nonetheless it was an interesting session with some unusual faces in unfamiliar places.