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Malaysia: Third drivers fill first three places in first session

NEWS STORY
18/03/2005

As we prepare for today's first free practice session for the 2005 Malaysia GP, the air temperature is 33 degrees C, while the track temperature is 40 degrees… and it's only 11 am. It's sunny, but fairly windy.

In this session in particular we don't expect to see any of the leading drivers do too many laps - in Melbourne Michael Schumacher only did 3 - leaving the third drivers to do all the 'donkey' work.

As the pitlane exit lights turn green, Robert Doornbos is first out on track, followed by Villeneuve, de la Rosa, Zonta, Klien, Friesacher, Monteiro and Liuzzi. Sato and Massa are also 'early risers'.

Although most of the drivers return to their garages, having completed the obligatory installation lap, McLaren's de la Rosa continues around. However, at the end of his second lap, he too returns to the pits.

Coulthard, Albers, Button, Karthikeyan, Montoya and Raikkonen also take to the track.

8 minutes into the session, Ricardo Zonta returns to the track. The Toyota test driver posts the first timed lap of the weekend, crossing the line at 1:39.159. Michael Schumacher's pole winning time in 2004 was 1:33.074.

Talk of the devil… the German leaves the pits to begin his installation lap.

As Vitantonio Liuzzi comes out to play, Zonta lowers the benchmark to 1:38.814. Elsewhere, Ralf Schumacher has completed his installation lap.

With 15 minutes of the session gone, only one driver has posted a time, while Barrichello, the Renault and WilliamsF1 drivers and Jarno Trulli, have yet to make an appearance.

Liuzzi, who was quickest in the first free practice session in Melbourne, posts 1:42.720, almost 42s off Zonta's time. Next time around the Italian, who has never been here before, posts 1:41.773.

Karthikeyan is back on track, as are Doornbos, de la Rosa and Monteiro.

The Spaniard goes straight to the top of the timesheets with a 1:38.501, as Friesacher and Barrichello take to the track.

Next time around the McLaren test driver improves with a 1:37.817, almost a full second quicker than Zonta. Friesacher and Karthikeyan post the first times of the weekend, but they are both over 7s off the pace.

Interestingly, fastest through the main speedtrap, at this stage, is Doornbos at 188 mph. Though he has yet to complete a lap.

25 minutes into the session and Michael Schumacher re-appears, closely followed by Monteiro. The world champion crosses the line at 1:38.565, 0.748s off de la Rosa's pace. However, he continues around and immediately goes quickest in the first sector, however he loses ground in the second and only improves to 1:38.411.

Halfway through the first session of the weekend and the order is: de la Rosa, Michael, Zonta, Liuzzi, Karthikeyan, Monteiro, Doornbos and Friesacher. These 8 are covered by 6.599s.

With 25 minutes remaining, both the Renault drivers make an appearance, as does Trulli.

Liuzzi's appears to have a problem, he's struggling with his car, as Zonta improves but remains third, behind de la Rosa and Michael.

Webber finally makes an appearance, however, teammate Heidfeld remains in the WilliamsF1 garage.

Monteiro has completed the most laps thus far (12), with Zonta, Doornbos, Liuzzi and Karthikeyan on 11.

Pedro de la Rosa is back on track and immediately goes quickest in the first two sectors, then again in the third, crossing the line at 1:36.317. Meanwhile, on his first flying lap, Mark Webber goes third (1:38.474).

Moments later however, Nick Heidfeld, on his first hot lap, goes second quickest with a 1:37.939.

Interestingly, Heidfeld and Michael are both on track, running close together. The WilliamsF1 driver improves to 1:37.785, while the Ferrari driver posts 1:37.620, to re-claim the runner up spot. That said, he remains over a second off de la Rosa's pace.

Less than 15 minutes remaining and Liuzzi goes second with a 1:36.326, just 0.009s of the benchmark.

At this point only 11 drivers have posted times.

Jacques Villeneuve finally posts a time, the Canadian crossing the line at 1:42.526, next time around he improves to 1:39.780, which puts him seventh quickest.

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