Showers make for inconclusive second session
As expected, the weather interrupted Friday afternoons practice session here at Suzuka, after Ricardo Zonta had set the fastest time of 1m 30.682s for Toyota. That compared with Pedro de la Rosas morning best of 1m 30.532s set in the McLaren MP4-20.
The Spaniard lapped in 1m 31.821s in the afternoon to chase Michael Schumachers 1m 31.716s in the Ferrari before a drizzle began which slowed the pace. Before that, Rubens Barrichello set the fourth best time for outgoing champions in 1m 32.267s followed by Kimi Raikkonen on 1m 32.849s. After a major bottom-end disruption this morning the Finns MP4-20 was running a replacement Mercedes-Benz V10, so he will definitely have a 10 grid place penalty on Sunday afternoon.
Behind Raikkonen, Ralf Schumacher improved to 1m 32.917s for Toyota, with team mate Jarno Trulli next on 1m 33.122s. Fernando Alonso was eighth on 1m 33.259s for Renault ahead of BARs Jenson Button (1m 33.453s), Williams Mark Webber (1m 33.520s), Red Bulls David Coulthard (1m 33.563s) and Williams Antonio Pizzonia (1m 33.679s).
Takuma Sato was 13th on 1m 34.330s in the second BAR, then came Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 34.400s) for Renault, Saubers Felipe Massa (1m 33.421s), Red Bulls Christian Klien (1m 33.707s), Jordans Japan-only third driver Sakon Yamamoto (who continued to impress with 1m 34.829s), Jacques Villeneuve in the second Sauber (1m 34.874s) and Vitantonio Liuzzi (1m 34.977s before his Red Bulls Cosworth engine began spitting flames).
Robert Doornbos led the Minardi challenge with 1m 35.150s, team mate Christijan Albers lapping only 23rd fastest in 1m 37.626s. Jordans Tiago Monteiro was 21st on 1m 35.388s, leaving McLarens Juan Pablo Montoya on 1m 37.371s and Jordans Narain Karthikeyan on 1m 38.034s in 22nd and 24th places respectively.
It is safe to say that none of the times was representative as nobody got in their optimised laps before the drizzle turned into a downpour by the end of the session. What this means is that nobody got their full complement of data after this morning so as it was at Spa tyre evaluation will mainly be based on careful analysis of the lap times and the sector times. However, even that may be academic if the forecast poor weather settles in for the rest of the weekend.