Promising start for new F2005 machine at Sakhir
Ricardo Zonta carried the load for Toyota in todays first practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix, setting the fastest time of 1m 31.449s as track temperatures nudged 50 degrees Celsius.
The Brazilian ran for 21 laps as team mates Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher kept their powder dry and merely did installation laps in their TF105s. The Renaults and Takuma Satos BAR likewise rarely ventured from their garages.
Vitantonio Liuzzi was second fastest for Red Bull racing until the dying moment, on 1m 32.509s, when Michael Schumacher gave Ferrari and Bridgestone something to smile about by pushing into runner-up position with 1m 32.120s. This was achieved in only five laps, and compares with the world champions 2004 pole position time of 1m 30.139s. The track has been slightly revised in Turn Four, but is naturally quite slippery still at this stage of the weekend.
Alexander Wurzs morning got off to a bad start when his McLaren stopped in Turn two after only 11 minutes, but the team got him going again and he ended up fourth on 1m 33.106s. Team mates Pedro de la Rosa and Kimi Raikkonen were sixth and eighth respectively, on 1m 33.270s and 1m 33.836s.
Making it a good morning for Ferrari, Rubens Barrichello lapped his new F2005 in 1m 33.111s for fifth, while Mark Webber was seventh for Williams on 1m 33.427s. Nick Heidfeld was 10th in the sister car on 1m 34.722s, a time shared by Christian Klien in the second Red Bull.
Jenson Button was satisfied with 1m 34.002s in his BAR, which was good enough for ninth, and Felipe Massa was 12th on 1m 34.875s for Sauber. David Coulthard was the last runner in the 34s, with 1m 34.984s in the lead Red Bull.
Robert Doornbos headed the Jordan contingent, lapping consistently quickly all through the session and winding up 14th on 1m 35.432s. Narain Karthikeyan was right behind him, however, on 1m 35.766s, and Tiago Monteiro was 16th on 1m 36.534s.
Jacques Villeneuve did eight laps to learn the circuit in the second Sauber, posting 1m 37.112s for 17th, and the final runners were Christijan Albers and Patrick Friesacher in their Minardis. The Dutchman had a spin in Turn 10 but lapped in 1m 37.778s for 18th, with the Austrian managing 1m 38.603s for the final time of the session.
It will, of course, be quicker this afternoon as more rubber goes down.