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McLaren on top in first practice 01 Jul 2005

Pedro de la Rosa (ESP) McLaren Test Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, 4 March 2005

McLaren and Renault enjoyed a ding-dong battle for supremacy at Magny-Cours in opening practice for the French Grand Prix.

Despite heavy, dark clouds lurking menacingly over the track this morning, the weather remained clement for the session and times are already approaching Fernando Alonso’s 2004 pole position lap of 1m 13.698s. Friday tester Pedro de la Rosa was fastest for McLaren with 1m 14.778s, but was chased by the Renaults of Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella with laps of 1m 15.183s and 1m 15.255s respectively.

Takuma Sato and Jenson Button were next up to trouble the times for BAR until the dying moments, when Kimi Raikkonen separated them. Sato lapped in 1m 15.530s, Raikkonen 1m 15.877s, and Button 1m 16.038s. On his return to Formula One racing, local hero Olivier Panis was seventh for Toyota on 1m 16.146s, ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya (1m 16.366s), Ralf Schumacher (1m 16.713s) and Nick Heidfeld (1m 16.758s).

It’s been a slow start so far for Ferrari, with Michael Schumacher 11th on 1m 16.838s and Rubens Barrichello 14th on 1m 17.389s. They were split by the two Red Bulls of David Coulthard (1m 17.168s) and Christian Klien (1m 17.343s). The third car, driven by, Tonio Liuzzi, ran in Nurburgring specification without the latest aerodynamic mods or the TJ2005 Series 12 Cosworth engine. The Italian was 18th on 1m 18.876s.

Mark Webber was 16th for Williams on 1m 17.451s, ahead of the Saubers of Felipe Massa (1m 17.777s) and Jacques Villeneuve (1m 18.192s). Robert Doornbos used his previous F3000 experience here to lead the Jordans, with 1m 19.001s. Narain Karthikeyan was next with 1m 20.067s, with Tiago Monteiro 23rd on 1m 21.725s. Christijan Albers was again the faster of the Minardi pilots in 21st place on 1m 20.382s, just ahead of Patrick Friesacher’s 1m 20.725s.

Only Jarno Trulli failed to set a time, managing only an installation lap in his Toyota.

There were a few incidents to give some drivers at least, food for thought. Webber went off early in Turn 7 in his Williams; Liuzzi spun his Red Bull into the Turn 12 gravel; and Monteiro lost his Jordan over the kerbs in Turn 17, the chicane before the final corner. The yellow car danced dramatically in the air before crashing down and damaging its left-rear suspension, and he pulled off in Turn 4.