Judging form difficult in changing conditions
Its been a strange day so far in Melbourne, thanks to the overnight rain which left drivers facing a very wet track first thing. At the end of the first three-quarters of an hour, the Ferraris were in the top two places, Michael Schumacher lapping in 1m 40.540s and Rubens Barrichello in 1m 41.933s. Kimi Raikkonen was their closest rival on his Michelins, with 1m 43.526s, but since they all ran at different times you couldnt read much into it.
Both Minardis ran too, after accommodation had been reached between Paul Stoddart, the FIA and Victorias Supreme Court. Stoddart had won a temporary injunction to run his cars in 2004 trim pending the FIA being represented in court so the judge could rule one way or the other. That prompted FIA President Max Mosley to threaten the future of the Australian race, and in the end Stoddart agreed in everyones best interests to run his cars in 2005 trim on Saturday, after all.
Christjan Albers looked a star as he set fastest time early on, while Patrick Friesacher also ran strongly before spinning off at Turn 3 on his final lap.
Overall, the order in that initial session behind Schumacher, Barrichello and Raikkonen was Narain Karthikeyan (a good effort for 1m 45.641s), Ralf Schumacher (1m 45.687s), Takuma Sato (1m 46.768s), David Coulthard (1m 48.369s), Albers (1m 48.566s), Jarno Trulli (1m 49.623s), Jenson Button (1m 51.364s), Tiago Monteiro (1m 53.457s) and Friesacher (1m 53.507s).
Neither of the Sauber, Renault or Williams drivers did complete laps (though Webber ventured out twice and spun both times), and nor did Christian Klien or Juan Pablo Montoya.
In the second session the track dried steadily, so the times were largely academic and ranged all over the place. Depending on the level of improvement of the conditions, some drivers made what appeared to be massive leaps, but the final minutes boiled down to a straight fight between Raikkonen and Alonso, McLaren and Renault, thus apparently confirming pre-season winter testing form.
The Finn ended up fastest with 1m 27.297s, but the Spaniard was in his wheeltracks with 1m 27.409s. Juan Pablo Montoya made a late jump to third with 1m 28.256s, edging out Giancarlo Fisichella who had been matching Alonso but ultimately made do with 1m 28.571s for fourth. Right behind him was Jenson Button with 1m 28.577s for BAR.
Webber had a better time, setting sixth fastest lap with 1m 30.299s, ahead of Michael Schumacher (1m 30.553s), Sato (1, 30.554s), Coulthard (who was fastest in the early stages, on 1m 30.645s) and Barrichello (1m 30.715s). Nick Heidfeld did only seven laps for an 11th fastest 1m 31.375s, which left him ahead of Christian Klien (1m 31.671s), Jarno Trulli (1m 31.701s) and Felipe Massa (1m 31.736s). The Italian and the Brazilian had earlier been stars, each having a spell as the fastest.
There was then a big gap to Jacques Villeneuve, on 1m 34.031s, and Ralf Schumacher on 1m 34.924s. Christjan Albers did a good job lapping his Minardi in 1m 35.975s, but team-mate Patrick Friesacher was left on 1m 40.045s. Right at the back were the two Jordans; Tiago Monteiro did 1m 40.802s to edge out team mate Narain Karthikeyan on 1m 40.822s, but the Indian was out of luck again after spinning in Turn 9 and then having to abandon his stationary car after it briefly caught fire.
What all of this really means remains open to conjecture since the lap times were so dependent on the time at which a driver ran. That means that first qualifying this afternoon will be even more gripping.