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Third drivers set early Sepang pace 17 Mar 2006

Alex Wurz (AUT) Williams Third Driver.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, 11 March 2006

Alexander Wurz headed the times for Williams as practice for the 2006 Malaysian Grand Prix kicked off at Sepang this morning, vying for fastest lap with BMW’s Robert Kubica and Honda’s Anthony Davidson.

The Austrian lapped in 1m 34.946s, the Pole in 1m 35.723s, and the Englishman 1m 35.997s.

With a high level of concern over engine reliability in Sepang’s heat and humidity, it was hardly surprising that many people elected not to run or else just did installation laps. Neither of Williams’s or Honda’s race drivers went out at all, while Giancarlo Fisichella, Fernando Alonso, Jacques Villeneuve, Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen went out and came straight back in.

It was thus even more of a Friday drivers’ benefit, with Wurz, Kubica and Davidson doing 19, 22 and 25 laps respectively.

Juan Pablo Montoya did four laps for McLaren, to set fourth fastest time of 1m 36.709s, then came David Coulthard with 1m 37.042s after seven for Red Bull and Michael Schumacher on 1m 37.043s after four.

Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa did 18 laps for his seventh fastest 1m 37.557s, and he headed Red Bull’s Robert Doornbos (1m 37.604s) and Toyota’s Ralf Schumacher (1m 37.826s). Christian Klien completed the top 10 with 1m 38.448s for Red Bull.

Neel Jani took his Toro Rosso round in 1m 38.668s, with Jarno Trulli’s eight-lap stint earning him 12th for Toyota on 1m 38.837s.

Then came Toro Rosso’s Scott Speed on 1m 39.399s, Tiago Monteiro in the Midland on 1m 39.899s, his Swiss Friday team mate Giorgio Mondini on 1m 40.092s, Tonio Liuzzi on 1m 40.123s for Toro Rosso, Midland’s Christijan Albers on 1m 40.608s, and finally the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Yuji Ide on 1m 41.072s and 1m 43.449s respectively.

The only incident of note concerned Monteiro, who spun his Midland in Turn Five after 40 minutes and was unable to continue.

The times are interesting; last year’s race fastest lap fell to Kimi Raikkonen in 1m 35.483s, which means that the latest breed of cars is already very quick.