Davidson sets the early pace in China 24 Sep 2004
Anthony Davidson once again staked his claim to a fulltime Formula One race seat with fastest time in the first practice session for the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix.
With BARs personnel decked out in blue and yellow sponsor livery for this event, the British driver topped the timesheets with a best lap of 1m 35.369s, just ahead of Ralf Schumacher who celebrated his return to active duty for Williams with 1m 35.455s. Juan Pablo Montoya in the second FW26 was third quickest, in 1m 35.761s.
The track proved as challenging as everybody had expected, particularly Turn One, but the only incident of note came when Mark Webber pushed a little too hard and ran wide in Turn Four in his Jaguar.
Felipe Massa recorded a late 1m 36.086s in his Sauber to snatch fourth fastest time from Ryan Briscoe, whose 1m 36.394s for Toyota was sufficient to pip Jenson Button, who lapped in 1m 36.475s for BAR. Rubens Barrichello was the leading Ferrari with 1m 36.660s, ahead of Fernando Alonso (1m 36.884s for Renault), Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 36.944s for Sauber) and Ricardo Zonta (1m 36.970s for Toyota).
Kimi Raikkonen did only five laps, as has become McLarens Friday morning custom, and took 11th fastest time on 1m 37.102s. That just beat Bjorn Wirdheims 1m 37.142s which was the quickest Jaguar time. Then came Olivier Panis in the third Toyota on 1m 37.191s, and Jacques Villeneuve, whose return to Formula One racing yielded 1m 37.240s. That left him ahead of his old sparring partner Michael Schumacher, who had a troubled morning and was not at all happy with 1m 37.300s in his Ferrari, which came to a halt at the end of the pit lane during the session and had to be pushed back to the garage.
Behind the world champion came Takuma Sato on 1m 37.438s, and then Timo Glock who took over Giorgio Pantanos race seat at Jordan to post 1m 37.587s. David Coulthard was 18th, like team mate Raikkonen restricting his lappery while recording 1m 37.976s.
Nick Heidfeld was next on 1m 38.132s, ahead of the Jaguars of Christian Klien and Mark Webber (1m 38.504s and 1m 38.761s respectively). Gianmaria Bruni was 22nd for Minardi on 1m 38.805s, then came newcomer Robert Doornbos in the third Jordan, the Spa F3000 winner lapping in 1m 39.244s as he acclimatised quickly to Formula One machinery. Bas Leinders and Zsolt Baumgartner brought up the rear for Minardi, on 1m 39.529s and 1m 42.795s respectively.