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F2005 shows early promise

NEWS STORY
01/04/2005

Ahead of today's first free practice session, the air temperature is already 35 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 42 degrees… "just warming up," as Bob Constanduros tells us.

Renault is predicting Malaysia-type temperatures for Saturday and Sunday - that's around 36 degrees C (air) and 52 degrees (track). With humidity around 24%.

Of course, all eyes will be on Ferrari today, as the F2005 makes its debut. However, don't expect too many laps from the Maranello boys - especially in the first session - in the four Friday sessions thus far in 2005, Michael has completed 53 laps and Rubens 30.

According to the FIA - and they should know - only two drivers are not running with new engines today, Nick Heidfeld and Christijan Albers.

As you are aware, there are a couple of 'new' faces on the grid today, Pedro de la Rosa - who is replacing the injured Juan Pablo Montoya - and Alexander Wurz who takes over the 'third car' for McLaren.

At 11:00 precisely, Robert Doornbos leaves takes to the track, followed by Friesacher, Albers, Wurz, Villeneuve, Zonta, Karthikeyan, Massa and Liuzzi. As ever, this will merely be an installation lap.

As Wurz carries on around to begin a second lap, Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button also come out.

The Austrian returns to the pits after his second lap, having failed to post a time. He immediately goes back out and completes another lap, he is clearly feeling out the MP4-20 which has been modified to accommodate his lanky frame.

Elsewhere, Takuma Sato, who missed the Malaysian GP due to illness - has completed an installation lap, as have Kimi Raikkonen and Pedro de la Rosa.

Robert Doornbos and Ricardo Zonta are back on track, with eleven minutes of the session gone it looks as though we're about to see the first timed lap of the day.

Oh dear, not the return that Wurz had wanted. His car comes to a halt just after the pits. He sits there for a while then gets out and the car is pushed off track.

Meanwhile, Zonta posts the benchmark time, a 1:35.425, while Doornbos posts 1:40.918. As Liuzzi goes third (1:40.428), Zonta improves with a 1:34.741.

Doornbos improves with a 1:36.844 as Liuzzi posts 1:37.026.

Christijan Albers session appears to be over when he spins off, however he is able to extract himself from the sand-trap and continue. Meanwhile, teammate Patrick Friesacher posts a 1:39.495.

With 21 minutes gone, the Renault, WilliamsF1 and Toyota (race) drivers have yet to make an appearance.

A 1:34.497 sees Zonta consolidate his place at the top of the timesheets, as Liuzzi also improves (1:35.604).

At the halfway point, only five drivers have posted times; Zonta, Doornbos, Liuzzi, Albers and Friesacher. Moments later however, Monteiro goes fifth with a 1:39.181.

Takuma Sato is on track as are Red Bull boys David Coulthard and Christian Klien.

35 minutes into the session, Giancarlo Fisichella finally makes an appearance. Narain Karthikeyan meanwhile, goes fourth with a 1:35.871.

As Fisichella returns to the Renault garage, having completed his installation lap, teammate, and world championship leader, Fernando Alonso, come out.

Webber and Heidfeld come out to play, which leaves Trulli and Ralf as the party poopers, the only drivers yet to mane an appearance.

The Australian continues around and immediately goes quickest in the second sector. He crosses the line at 1:34.407 to go quickest, but within a fraction of a second Zonta has improved, to re-take his place at the top of the timesheets.

Nick Heidfeld posts 1:34.722 to go third, the WilliamsF1 drivers are the first of the 'big guns' to post times.

With 15 minutes remaining, only nine drivers have posted times, most of the 'main' drivers have only completed an installation lap - god alone knows what the people in the grandstands must think, this is hardly value for money.

Red Bull third driver goes quickest, the F3000 champion crossing the line at 1:32.509, which is 1.6s quicker than anything else we've seen thus far.

Almost unnoticed, Pedro de la Rosa goes third (1:34.133), and Jarno Trulli finally comes out to play.

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