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de la Rosa quickest in Friday opener

NEWS STORY
06/05/2005

With less than half an hour to go before today's first free practice session, BAR-Honda issued a statement in which it announced that it accepts the two-race ban imposed by the International Court of Appeal. However, the Brackley outfit makes it clear that it has every intention of clearing its name.

This of course means that only 18 cars will take part in this weekend's race, with Jenson Button and Takuma Sato heading home for a couple of weeks R&R.

It's a sad state of affairs, and sadly once again F1 appears to have shot itself in the foot. Try explaining to 'man down the pub' why two drivers have been banned, due to a couple of litres of fuel, and see if they understand, They don't… we talk from experience.

Mark Webber will not take part in today's sessions, following the discovery of a problem (exhaust valve) with the BMW engines being used by the WilliamsF1 team. The German manufacturer is sending out new engines from Munich, and they won't arrive until Saturday. Nick Heidfeld will also need one of the new engines, which means he loses ten grid spots.

As the cars line up in the pitlane, the air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature is 31 degrees.

First out on track is Christian Klien, followed by de la Rosa, Zonta, Villeneuve, Massa, Friesacher, Karthikeyan, Doornbos and Albers.

As the drivers return to their garages, having completed their installation lap, Ricardo Zonta continues round, posting the benchmark time, 1:20.816, that's around 5s off last year's pole time.

Next time around the Brazilian posts 1:18.794, while Christian Klien crosses the line at 1:22.276.

Ten minutes into the session, Juan Pablo Montoya returns to the track for the first time since the Malaysian Grand Prix, the Colombian is followed by teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull team-leader David Coulthard and his teammate Tonio Liuzzi.

With fifteen minutes gone, only four drivers have posted times, Zonta, Klien, de la Rosa and Doornbos. The Brazilian remains the pace-setter, with a, 1:18.103.

Ralf Schumacher makes a brief appearance, however at the end of his installation lap he too returns to his garage, whilst the third drivers continue with the 'donkey work'.

Twenty-three minutes into the session, Michael Schumacher leaves his garage, having completed his installation lap he continues around and immediately goes second quickest with a 1:18.445, moments later he improves with a 1:18.235.

Barrichello and Fisichella both come out to play, however, as we approach the halfway point only seven drivers have posted times. Zonta is quickest, ahead of Michael, de la Rosa, Klien, Doornbos, Albers and Friesacher. Moments later however, Karthikeyan goes fifth with a 1:21.648.

Just after 'half time', the crowd erupts as world championship leader, and national hero, Fernando Alonso, eases his Renault R25 out of its garage and heads down the pitlane. What's the Spanish for tifosi?

Suddenly there's a flurry of activity, de la Rosa goes quickest (1:17.658), as Zonta goes off at Turn 6, and remains in the kitty litter when his engine stalls. Coulthard goes fourth, ahead of Michael Schumacher, while Montoya goes sixth and Liuzzi tenth.

On his first flying lap, WilliamsF1's sole runner, Nick Heidfeld, posts 1:17.642, to go quickest, but moments later he's leap-frogged by fellow German, Michael Schumacher, who crosses the line at 1:17.574.

Heidfeld isn't done, however, moments later he reclaims the top spot with a 1:17.381.

Pedro de la Rosa, posts a blistering 1:15.675, that's 1.706s faster than anything else we've seen today, and only 0.6s off last year's pole time.

With twelve minutes remaining, and only thirteen names on the timesheets, Klien goes second quickest, the Austrian posting 1:16.821. The Red Bull driver, along with Robert Doornbos, has completed the most laps thus far (21).

Eight minutes remain, and it's: de la Rosa, Klien, Heidfeld, Michael, Coulthard, Zonta, Liuzzi, Montoya, Massa and Doornbos. Only four other drivers have posted times.

Raikkonen goes fifth, splitting Michael and DC, with a 1:17.851, as de la Rosa goes quickest in the first sector, the Spaniard clearly fired up by his home crowd. Sadly, he loses time in the two remaining sectors and fails to improve, yet remains over a second ahead of his closest rival.

Christijan Albers session is over, the Dutch driver spins off into the gravel and promptly stalls his engine. Interestingly, as at Imola, the Minardi PS05 is quickest through the speed-trap (200.7 mph),

Villeneuve goes thirteenth (1:20.964), as Ralf goes ninth (1:18.204).

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