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Brazilian Ricardo Zonta created a small piece of history by setting fastest time on the opening day of the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix meeting at Istanbul Park. In warm but overcast conditions, the Toyota tester lapped the new, 5.340-kilometre (3.318-mile) circuit in 1m 25.583s, 0.613s quicker than McLaren counterpart Pedro de la Rosa. Juan Pablo Montoya was third overall and swiftest of the regular racers.
Drivers from six Michelin teams completed a clean sweep of the top 12 places, with Kimi Raikkonen fourth ahead of Jenson Button, Vitantonio Liuzzi, world championship leader Fernando Alonso, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli, Takuma Sato, Mark Webber and David Coulthard.
Track conditions at Istanbul Park have been very slippery on the opening day and a number of drivers were caught out. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacherwas no exception – he ran off the road twice within the space of a lap.
Several key F1 deals have been finalised during the sport’s two-week summer recess. Rubens Barrichello will race for B·A·R-Honda in 2006 after splitting from Ferrari, which has signed Sauber driver Felipe Massa in his place. Following the break-up of its relationship with BMW, Williams has secured an engine deal with British specialist Cosworth.
Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director: "Fridays are often relatively uneventful in Formula One terms, but that certainly wasn’t the case today as our partners got to grips with an unfamiliar track. It was interesting to watch drivers experimenting with different lines and teams tackling the myriad problems a new circuit can throw up.
"It is clear that Istanbul Park is a top -class facility. There are several distinctly different types of corner, but teams don’t require the same degree of set-up compromise as they do at somewhere like Montreal, for instance, where there is such a stark contrast between the long, fast straights and a proliferation of slow turns. The layout in Turkey is more balanced.
"Lap times were a little faster than we anticipated, but our pre -race simulations have been very effective and, as in Budapest three weeks ago, Michelin’s partners appear to be in excellent shape as they gear up for tomorrow’s qualifying session.
"The two tyre compounds we have brought to this race are quite different, but that isn’t reflected in their performance. The ‘prime’ is clearly fast and very durable, but the softer ‘option’ tyre might well be used in Sunday’s race, too. Until we have completed today’s analysis, however, it is too soon to draw any firm conclusions."
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