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Zonta tops opening practice at Sepang 18 Mar 2005

Ricardo Zonta (BRA) Toyota Test Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, 17 March 2005

Toyota's Ricardo Zonta pushed clear of the pack with a lap of 1m 34.092s in Sepang this morning, but the gap of 1.052s to next fastest runner Pedro de la Rosa was indication that this is still an early stage of the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend.

The Spaniard lapped his McLaren in 1m 35.144s, and Melbourne Friday sensation Vitantonio Liuzzi was the only other runner below 1m 35s with 1m 35.691s for Red Bull. These times compare with Michael Schumacher’s 2004 pole position time of 1m 33.074s and Juan Pablo Montoya’s fastest race lap of 1m 34.223s.

The champion himself did 13 laps for Ferrari to take fourth fastest time in 1m 36.011s, and then there was a small gap before Jenson Button’s 1m 36.513s for BAR, Nick Heidfeld’s 1m 36.551s for Williams and Kimi Raikkonen’s 1m 36.563s for McLaren. The Finn’s team-mate, Juan Pablo Montoya, was right in his wheeltracks with 1m 36.610s, and Felipe Massa and Mark Webber were the last men in the 1m 36s bracket on 1m 36.963s and 1m 36.989s respectively to round out the top 10.

Ralf Schumacher was 11th in the second Toyota on 1m 37.168s ahead of David Coulthard (1m 37.338s), Takuma Sato (who spun once in Turn 1 after lapping in 1m 37.366s), Christian Klien (1m 37.642s) and Rubens Barrichello (1m 37.843s).

Jacques Villeneuve was 16th on 1m 38.416s in the second Sauber, ahead of a battle between the three Jordan drivers which was waged for the entire session with each of them having a turn as the fastest in the team. In the end the honours went to Tiago Monteiro with 1m 39.571s from Robert Doornbos on 1m 40.289s and Narain Karthikeyan on 1m 40.375s. The Indian was the session’s other spinner, rotating in Turn 9.

The two Minardi pilots proved closely matched, too, with Patrick Friesacher lapping in 1m 43.574s to Christijan Albers’ 1m 43.691s.

Neither Giancarlo Fisichella nor Fernando Alonso completed a timed lap for Renault, and Jarno Trulli likewise restricted himself to a couple of installation laps.