AUSTRALIAN GP - FRIDAY - PRACTICE SESSION 2 REPORT

Ferrari leads the way in Melbourne

Michael Schumacher, Australian GP 2004

Michael Schumacher, Australian GP 2004 

 © The Cahier Archive

Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello dominated the Formula 1 testing in Melbourne on Friday. The two Ferrari drivers were separated by a tenth of a second but were well clear of the opposition, the third fastest time being set by Jarno Trulli's Renault, a second off the pace of the red cars.

But the big question was whether or not the Ferrari team was running its cars without fuel loads or whether the gap really is that big.

Jenson Button gave the BAR-Honda team something to get excited about with fourth fastest but at the end of the second session the car stopped with a mechanical problem. Fernando Alonso was fifth quickest for Renault with the Williams-BMW duo of Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya comfortably placed in sixth and seventh places. The top 10 was completed by David Coulthard, Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen, the McLaren and Jaguar teams not loooking to be in a position to challenge the frontrunners.

Whether any of this is significant will not be known until qualifying on Saturday when we see the cars in qualifying trim - although the fact that the cars must be raced with the same fuel and tyres as in qualifying may mean that we will not actually know who is really competitive until the race on Sunday.


Ferrari

Michael Schumacher (1st, 1:24.718): "I am happy with the performance of the car which has matched our expectations after winter testing. But we should not read too much into the lap times, as it is too early to say if this is a true picture of the order among the teams: in fact, I doubt that it is. Today, we worked mainly on adapting the car's set-up for this circuit. I went off the track three times during the course of the day, which was mainly due to the wind, which was strong and not consistent and it can catch you out in terms of judging your braking point."

Rubens Barrichello (2nd, 1:24.826): "I am very happy with the car. We still have some more work to do on the set-up, but the car shows great potential. So I think there is more to come from it this weekend, which is encouraging. The car is still quite new for me, as I only got one and a half days running in it in dry conditions, so I am still learning. We went through our normal work schedule for a first day of free practice, keeping in mind the new rule regarding engines. We must not read too much into today's result, but it is a good way to start the season."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "Today marked the start of the longest ever championship in history, with 18 races on the calendar. The new regulations have changed the Friday timetable, which is now almost exclusively dedicated to evaluating the two type of tyre available, while taking into account that the engine used today has to last all the way to the end of Sunday's race. It is always pleasing to see two Bridgestone-shod Ferraris consistently out in front of the field, but we are well aware that today's result is not so significant. The serious business comes tomorrow in qualifying and we are mindful of how important it will be for the race to be able to start from the front of the grid."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "It was an eventful session, given that Michael went off the track this afternoon. The boys did a great job to get him out on track again towards the end. This year, we have to have made our tyre choice by Friday evening and we have enough information now to make that choice, even though this morning the track was quite "green." The tyre looks good and consistent and the car seems to be going okay."

Williams-BMW

Ralf Schumacher (6th, 1:25.882): "We could complete our programme today and, most importantly, we made our tyre choice, as the new regulations require. We didn't have much running in the morning also because of the poor conditions of the track, but I am quite confident we can improve even if the gap to Ferrari is seemingly very big."

Juan Pablo Montoya (7th, 1:26.206): "Probably not the result I was looking forward to achieve in this first practice. I was expecting poor grip in the first session, due to the dusty track, but then the situation didn't improve that much when the track became cleaner, since the balance of my car was not ideal. We've now got some work ahead of us to close the gap to the Ferrari drivers, who have been very quick today."

Sam Michael, Chief Operations Engineer: "We have had a reasonably good first day in terms of checking all the systems for the race. We had no mechanical problems at all and got through the tyre programme as planned. For the long runs the cars look consistent. Now we will work on the set-up to make sure it is good for qualifying."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "After endless endurance testing of the BMW P84 engine both on the dyno and during test sessions, this has been the first true check at a race weekend. The engine has passed the first day without any problems. There was no limitation to the mileage of the engines from our side."

McLaren-Mercedes

David Coulthard (8th, 1:26.215):

Kimi Raikkonen (10th, 1:26.579):

Ron Dennis, Team Principal:

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director:

Renault

Jarno Trulli (3rd, 1:25.757): "In general, it was a good trouble-free day for us. We completed our programme on the set-up and the tyres, and I am pleased with the results. So far, the car has been reliable and I think we have a solid base for further improvements. I am confident we can keep making progress as the track improves, and am looking forward to the new format qualifying session tomorrow."

Fernando Alonso (5th, 1:25.853): "From my point of view, it was a pretty good day. We still need to improve in terms of the car's balance, and particularly work hard with the data to make the correct tyre choice. We did lots of laps, which allowed us to improve the set-up quite significantly, and I think we ran a good programme."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "As expected, the restrictions imposed by the new regulations make Friday a slightly frustrating day, as we are unable to obtain all the answers we are looking for in the necessarily limited running time. However, a well-disciplined programme saw us make good progress during the two hours, with everything running according to plan. Our level of competitiveness is satisfactory and the fight at the front is predictably close, except of course for the dominant start Ferrari have made. However, I am sure we can look to close that gap."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "A positive first day from the engine side. The best news is that there is nothing to report: there were no incidents, and the cars completed medium-distance runs throughout the day, evaluating tyres, set-ups and track conditions. Our objective was to lay down a solid basis for the rest of the weekend, and I think we have done so, even if it is hard to draw any meaningful conclusions in terms of performance at this stage."

BAR-Honda

Jenson Button (4th, 1:25.786): "It's been a very interesting start to the new season. It felt quite strange leaving most of the driving to Anthony but he's done a great job of obtaining information for myself and Taku for the second session. He's going to play a key role in the way our race weekends shape up this season as Taku and I preserve our engines. We're working really well together, exactly as we do in testing, and there isn't any learning curve for us as a driver line-up, which is going to be a significant advantage. The car feels strong and we have some good tyre options, so I'm feeling positive about the race debut of the 006. The conditions are improving all the time as the circuit cleans up and I'm looking forward to more set-up work tomorrow morning in readiness for what is likely to be a very interesting qualifying session."

Takuma Sato (12th, 1:26.967): "It's great to be back competing in a Grand Prix again but it is quite a challenge to adapt to the new format. I've had very little track time so it is difficult to choose the right tyre in such a short space of time. We're working very well together as a team though and it is encouraging that all three drivers seem to be following the same direction. I'm looking forward to seeing how the rest of the weekend shapes up now."

Anthony Davidson (15th, 1:26.967): "I'm very pleased with the way things have gone in my first day of race weekend running with B.A.R Honda. It was fun to see my name up there with all the other drivers and I feel that we have achieved a lot in support of the two race drivers. I'm pretty happy with my times and I have adapted to the track very quickly. All the work I have done over the winter to learn the new circuits certainly seems to have paid off today. Of course, it's great to be here as part of an established driver line-up. It's just like being at a test with them really, so I feel very comfortable. I think the new Friday format will work well and will be a very important part of moving the team forward."

David Richards, Team Principal: "Anthony has done a great job for us today, competing with the team for the first time in race weekend conditions and making a valuable contribution to our overall programme. Our established driver line- up will be a great asset to us under the new format and, although it is still early days, I am sure that the changes introduced for this season will provide added excitement to the weekend. We have made a solid start today and I'm pleased to see the early signs that we should be competitive here. I'm not going to make any predictions though and I look forward to seeing how the new qualifying format unfolds tomorrow."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "It has been a very busy Friday, operating three cars in the first day of running under the new weekend format, but generally we are pleased with our performance so far. Anthony was halfway through the tyre programme this afternoon when we had warning of an imminent sensor failure, so we had to stop his running early. However, we have been able to obtain good information from his running. Jenson and Takuma finished their planned programmes, although on his last lap Jenson stopped on the circuit. We have located the source of the problem and we will have a solution for the car for the morning. As expected, track conditions have changed considerably during the day and we are confident that, by tomorrow, our set-up will be very competitive."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "Overall we had a good first day of the season, and we are about where we expected to be based on the results of winter testing. Anthony did well, but a problem with his car in the second session meant that we couldn't finish all of the planned programme. Jenson's car also had a problem on its last lap but there is a solution in place for tomorrow. It feels good to be back racing again."

Sauber-Petronas

Giancarlo Fisichella (11th, 1:26.601): "It was quite a good day, and I did my best laps during a long run. The balance was getting better with each lap, and we know which direction to take to improve the car further for tomorrow. We also have a clear tyre choice. It's going to be difficult to get into the top 10, but we'll do our best."

Felipe Massa (13th, 1:26.969): This morning I lost all my track time when my car stopped early on with a fuel pressure problem, but this afternoon I did a long run and the balance was getting better and better as the track improved, and the Bridgestone tyres felt consistent. The car was very good, and I could easily have gone half a second faster, but towards the end I got traffic on each lap. I'm happy with what I achieved, though, especially given what happened this morning."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director: "We are happy with today's pure race preparation. We learned more about the C23 and we know what we can do to make it quicker tomorrow. We are satisfied with the performance in race trim and the Bridgestone tyre performance seems to be consistent, which is encouraging."

Jaguar-Cosworth

Mark Webber (9th, 1:26.312): "It was fantastic to finally get out in the R5 today and to get a feel for the track. We worked steadily through our test programme and we successfully completed our tasks. Having Bjorn out there today meant that I could focus on my car set-up and balance while he did a lot of the tyre work, it makes a big difference to me having him with us on a Friday. I am really pleased with how today went and I am now really looking forward to qualifying. The track is of course slightly green in a few places but generally it feels good and I always enjoy driving here. The R5 is of course different to the R4 that we had here last year so it?s important to work as much as we can setting up the car in preparation for tomorrow and the race. Overall, so far, so good."

Christian Klien (17th, 1:27.724): "Well, I think the time I spent in the simulator at the factory practising in Albert Park was time well spent but there is no substitute for the real thing. It was exciting to go out there this morning and it certainly took me by surprise how much bumpier it was then I expected. The balance of the R5 was good but it still shakes you around and as I soon discovered it was also greener on track than I realised when I had a little spin at Turn 4. Learning the track today was really my priority and I feel that I achieved this. I did spend some time working on the R5 set-up and of course my tyres as I need to make this decision tonight. Having Bjorn work on the tyres too takes some of the pressure off and lets us focus on the cars."

Bjorn Wirdheim (20th, 1:28.781): "I spent most of today working on tyres for the team and I also focused on learning the track. After my thirty laps I certainly feel as if I am starting to know my way about. The tyre work is of course vital to the team although it is disappointing to not have a great lap time, but that is not why I am here ! It?s been a really positive day and I hope that I have helped the team in some way. I completed the planned programme so its been a good start."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "A pleasing day all-round. Three drivers and three completed programmes. Our reliability has been good and I am more than happy with the three drivers and their hard work. Christian and Bjorn have done a great job on their first day and they have taken to the track very well. The R5 balance on all cars has been good and I am really looking forward to tomorrow."

Toyota

Cristiano Da Matta (16th, 1:27.710): "I only completed twenty-or-so laps today, so it isn't easy to draw too many conclusions from the practice sessions. In the first hour, the track didn't have much grip and we decided not to run much. In the second session, I experienced some brake problems and I was ultimately forced to stop due to a puncture. Not the best start to the weekend, but on a positive note Ricardo did a lot of tyre comparison work today, so we were able to collect some very useful data for the weekend."

Olivier Panis (18th, 1:27.807): "I had a difficult first day in Australia today. We were unable to complete many laps and I am not yet happy with the set-up of the TF104 for the Albert Park track. We will sit down together this afternoon to work on it and find some improvements before tomorrow's two practice sessions."

Ricardo Zonta (14th, 1:27.165): "In the first session, the track was quite slippery and so I didn't push so much. The conditions improved as the session went on and I began to find the limits. In the second session, we did a back-to- back tyre comparison. We did a long run with the best set we found and the performance was quite consistent. We also found a good balance on the car, which should benefit the race drivers tomorrow. I am very pleased to be back driving during race weekends again and I hope my work today has helped."

Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director Chassis: "Ricardo had a small electrical problem, which limited his running but he managed to do a comparison on the two types of tyre. Olivier and Cristiano sat out most of the first session and did just a few set-up runs. Ricardo carried out some valuable tyre comparisons and long runs in the second session and the tyre choice is quite clear for us now. Both race drivers had some little problems. Cristiano's session was stopped prematurely with a puncture and Olivier was held up by traffic on his runs with new tyres. Overall the session panned out pretty much as expected and we got some good data. Our job now is to concentrate on preparing for qualifying and the race."

Jordan-Ford

Nick Heidfeld (19th, 1:27.826): "It's good to be back out on track and we did our tyre evaluation programme but I'm a bit frustrated that we weren't able to carry out a set-up change I wanted to make after the morning session, and now we have limited time available. Otherwise, I think I'd have been a bit further ahead in the timing sheets. If it had given me an extra tenth I would have been within range of Toyota and Jaguar, a good starting point at our first race."

Giorgio Pantano (23th, 1:30.061): "I enjoyed my first day of Grand Prix driving and I'm concentrating entirely on learning as everything here is new for me. We are making every effort to do our best and I think in preparation for tomorrow we can make changes and improve, for sure."

Timo Glock (24th, 1:30.291): "It was great today, a lot of fun doing laps with the rest of the Formula One field. During the second session the car felt really good and the times weren't bad but quite early on in the afternoon we had a problem  maybe the gearbox - and my session stopped there."

James Robinson, Head of race and test engineering: "On our first day of racing in 2004 we are finding our feet with a brand new car, totally new driver line-up, a new set-up on the technical side and some new people so it's enjoyable but a steep learning curve. We will examine the problem with Timo's car very carefully as it's not acceptable to lose valuable track time like this in both sessions."

Minardi-Cosworth

Gianmaria Bruni (21th, 1:28.991): "It was a good day for me. We did both short and long runs, which helped me to learn the circuit and to find a reasonable balance for the chassis. I was pleased with my time on new tyres, but also happy with the longer run we did on worn tyres. I feel sure we'll go better on Saturday as a result of the information we have picked up today."

Zsolt Baumgartner (22th, 1:29.708): "It was generally okay today, but we still have to find a better balance in the chassis. I wasn't so happy with my last time because I couldn't really use the new tyres to best advantage. Even so, I think we made good progress. We ran hard all day, and I am now getting used to the car and the circuit. Tomorrow, I hope we can improve and get closer to the others."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "What a fantastic feeling to be at one of our team's ?home' races and, yet again, to be bringing new drivers into the sport. Gimmi Bruni, our test driver from 2003, today had his first taste of Formula One action at the magnificent Albert Park facility, while Zsolt Baumgartner, whom people will recall had those two memorable races with Jordan last year, commenced his first full F1 season. Minardi will this year be striving for reliability, and it's gratifying that both drivers today completed their full technical programmes in preparation for Saturday's qualifying sessions. Our Test and Reserve driver, Bas Leinders, is now on his way back to Europe in order to complete a full Grand Prix distance next week and enable his Superlicence to be processed. While we feel sorry he wasn't able to take part today, Bas will open his 2004 season with Wilux Minardi Cosworth in two weeks at Sepang."

PRACTICE SESSION 1 RESULTS

PRACTICE SESSION 2 RESULTS

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