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A definite sign of improvement

NEWS STORY
03/04/2005

We could well be in for the hottest Grand Prix in Formula One history today, literally, as forecasters predict that today's race will break all previous record, temperature-wise.

However, the grid order for today's race has yet to be decided, and in the next hour we shall learn if Fernando Alonso is to start from pole for the fifth time in his brief, but meteoric, career, or whether Jarno Trulli can make it pole number three. Then again, Michael Schumacher is chasing down his sixty-fourth pole.

The air temperature is already up to 37 degrees C, while the track temperature is 42 degrees.

The Ferrari crew has had a very busy night, indeed work on Rubens Barrichello's car - which needed a brand new gearbox - only finished around twenty minutes before the start of today's session.

Although the Brazilian is fifteenth on the provisional grid, he can probably improve today and make it into the first four or five rows.

At 10:30 precisely, Patrick Friesacher leaves the Minardi garage, the session is underway. This is (hopefully) the last race weekend for the PS04. The car is still a handful to drive, more so than Albers it would appear, but the youngster does his best, crossing the line at 3:11.261.

Next out is teammate Christijan Albers. At the first split the Dutch driver is already 0.9s up on his teammate, while at the second split he's 1.2s up on the Austrian. He crosses the line at 3:10.422, he lost time in the final sector but he's still quicker than Friesacher.

Tiago Monteiro is 0.4s up on Albers at the first split, extending his 'lead' to 0.6s at the second. The Portuguese driver has been accused of being too conservative, especially in comparison to his Indian teammate. At the line he posts 3:09.428.

Narain Karthikeyan completes the first sector 0.2s ahead of his teammate, the Indian pushing his car really hard. At the second split he's 0.4s down, having lost a heap of time at Turn 10, where he was a little too enthusiastic. He crosses the line at 3:10.143, second.

Last out before the break is Jacques Villeneuve, he really needs a result this weekend. At the first split the Canadian is 1.2s up on Monteiro. It's an aggressive lap, and he's pushing hard. At the second split he's 1.0s up on the Jordan driver. There's no repeat of yesterday's mistake though it's an aggressive lap, crossing the line at 3:07.983.

Crunch time for Rubens Barrichello who is next out. Currently the order is Villeneuve, Monteiro, Karthikeyan, Albers and Friesacher.

At the end of the first sector the Ferrari driver is 0.7s up on Villeneuve. At the second split the gap is up to 1.3s, he's doing well thus far, but not pushing too hard. At the line it's 3:07.693 however he almost immediately pulls off track, he clearly has a problem. He's quickest but only by 0.2s.

David Coulthard is already half-a-second up on Barrichello by the time he completes the first sector. At the second split the Scot is 0.8s up on the Ferrari driver, a great lap from DC. At the line it's 3:05.844, he takes provisional pole by 1.8s.

Next out is Takuma Sato, the BAR driver, like his teammate, having a torrid weekend, thus far. At the first split he's 0.4s up on Coulthard, however he loses time at Turn 12 as he runs wide. At the second split he's 0.5s up on the Scot going on to cross the line at 3:05.563, to take provisional pole.

Teammate Jenson Button is next out, are we going to see another 'Mr Angry' today? At the first split he's 0.2s up on his Japanese teammate, going on to extend the gap to 0.5s at the second. The Englishman crosses the line at 3:04.348 to take provisional pole. However, where will this stand him for this afternoon's grid?

At the first split Ralf Schumacher is already 0.2s up on Button. The German was looking good yesterday, until he made a silly mistake which cost him heavily. No mistakes thus far as he completes the second sector 0.8s ahead of the BAR driver. At the line the Toyota star posts 3:03.271, provisional pole. A good lap from Ralf, and not before time.

At the second break it's: Ralf, Button, Sato, Coulthard, Barrichello, Villeneuve, Monteiro, Karthikeyan, Albers and Friesacher.

Felipe Massa is next out, in the second Sauber. At the first split the Brazilian is 0.3s down on Ralf, and by the time he finishes the second sector he's almost a second down on the German. A 3:05.202 sees him go third, could he be running with a lot of fuel on board?

Montoya stand-in Pedro de la Rosa is already 0.2s up on Ralf by the time he completes the first sector. Unfortunately he loses time in the second sector and again in the third, he crosses the line at 3:03.373 to go second.

Red Bull 'wunder-kid' Christian Klien is next out. At the first split the Austrian is 0.63s up on Ralf Schumacher. The youngster is pushing really hard but by the time he completes the second sector he's only marginally ahead of the Toyota's time. He loses time in the final sector and therefore 'only' manages 3:03.369, which puts him second.

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