McLaren ahead, but Renault maintain the pressure
Pedro de la Rosa and McLaren continued to head the field in Canada on Friday afternoon, the Spaniard lapping in 1m 14.662s to head Toyotas Friday tester Ricardo Zonta on 1m 14.858s.
Of the regular runners, Fernando Alonso boosted Renaults hopes of a high podium finish with third-fastest time of 1m 15.376s, while team mate Giancarlo Fisichella was sixth on 1m 15.846s. The blue and yellow cars sandwiched the two other McLarens of Juan Pablo Montoya (1m 15.625s) and Kimi Raikkonen (1m 5.679s). The Finn was fortunate not to be lapping with his wallet in his pocket, otherwise McLaren would have had to adjust his MP4-20s weight after the FIA relieved him of $5000 for being late for yesterdays press conference.
Jenson Button was encouraged by seventh place for BAR, heading team mate Takuma Sato as their lapped in 1m 16.190s and 1m 16.313s respectively. Ralf Schumacher was right behind Sato with 1m 16.364s for Toyota, while Rubens Barrichello was the faster Ferrari driver in 1m 16.459s as Michael Schumacher focussed more on race set-up and was only 16th on 1m 17.200s. At one stage, however, the champion also pushed too hard, locked a brake and slid wide when under pressure from Fisichella.
Jarno Trulli in the third Toyota was 11th on 1m 16.638s, and Mark Webber was the quicker of the Williams duo with 1m 16.661s to Nick Heidfelds 1m 16.826s. These two were separated by the Sauber drivers. Jacques Villeneuve lapped in 1m 16.718s on the circuit named after his late father Gilles, while Massa met yellow flags on his new tyres so had to be content with 1m 16.727s. Both felt the C24 was well suited to the track.
David Coulthard and Christian Klien were next for Red Bull, the Scot lapping in 1m 17.299s, the Austrian, on his return to race duty, 1m 17.922s. Klien had an adventurous afternoon, running over the run-off area of the final corner a couple of times, and also going off in Turns 1 and 3 in a single lap. Others to cut the last corner included Barrichello, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Sato, Tiago Monteiro and Coulthard, while Monteiro and Jordan team mate Narain Karthikeyan each spun once and Red Bull debutant Scott Speed lost it in Turn 4 after lapping in 1m 19.270s after 15 laps and was pushed aside after stalling.
Patrick Friesacher was Minardis faster runner with 1m 18.115s, heading Karthikeyan next on 1m 18.234s, Christijan Albers on 1m 18.463s, Monteiro on 1m 19.186s, and Speed.
Generally, drivers reported that the new track surface has improved grip, and as yet more rubber goes down tomorrow they will get closer to, and possibly better, Ralf Schumachers 2004 pole time of 1m 12.275s for Williams.