de la Rosa quickest in first free practice


With just over five minutes to go before the first free practice session of the San Marino Grand Prix weekend, and thereby the start of the European F1 season, the air temperature is a cool 14 degrees C, while the track temperature is 24 degrees.

As ever, we don't expect to see much mileage from the 'big guns' this morning, instead it is the third drivers who will do much of the running.

Making his debut as Red Bull's third driver is Christian Klien, as Tonio Liuzzi prepares for his F1 race debut, the Italian keen to become the first driver to score on his debut since Timo Glock in 2004.

At McLaren, Pedro de la Rosa returns to his third driver role following his exciting, and much talked about, performance in Bahrain. Alexander Wurz deputising for Juan Pablo Montoya.

The other 'debut' today is the brand new Minardi PS05, which many believe could see off the Jordan, and possibly even the Sauber, as the season develops.

The lights go green and Jordan's Robert Doornbos is first out of the trap, closely followed by Klien, Zonta, Massa and de la Rosa.

Just three minutes into the session, the crowd erupts as Michael Schumacher takes to the track. It's rare that we see the German on a Friday, let alone this early. However, this is Imola, the Maranello outfit's true 'home' track.

David Coulthard, Tiago Monteiro, Narain Karthikeyan and Takuma Sato are also 'early risers'. As are Kimi Raikkonen, Patrick Friesacher, Christijan Albers and Jenson Button.

Eight minutes into the session and it appears that the 'hero of the dunes', de la Rosa, is going to be the first driver to post a time. The Spaniard crosses the line at 1:26.143, while Zonta goes second with a 1:27.717.

Meanwhile, Minardi's weekend gets off to the worst possible start, as Friesacher grinds to a halt, having failed to complete a lap.

de la Rosa improves to 1:24.066, as Klien goes third with a 1:28.741, just to put things in perspective, the 2004 was 1:19.753.

Twenty minutes into the session and de la Rosa remains quickest ahead of Zonta, Klien and Doornbos, the only drivers to have posted times, thus far. Alonso, Fisichella, Webber, Heidfeld, Trulli and Ralf have yet to leave their garages.

Michael Schumacher is back on track, and delights the crowd by going second with a 1:24.662, elsewhere Karthikeyan goes sixth, albeit 4.8s off the pace.

Schumacher improves to 1:23.583, to go quickest, whilst the crowd has another reason to cheer, Tonio Liuzzi goes fourth.

The World Champion, and the Ferrari F2005, mean business, he crosses the line at 1:22.858.

Approaching the halfway mark, and with only nine drivers having posted times, Karthikeyan goes fourth, ahead of Liuzzi, Klien, Doornbos, Friesacher and Monteiro.

De la Rosa closes the gap to Schumacher, the Spaniard posting a 1:23.498. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa goes sixth, albeit 2.6s off the pace.

As Massa improves with a 1:24.542, to go third, fellow Brazilian, Rubens Barrichello, goes tenth, 4.4s off the pace. He left his braking way too late, and ended up spinning off, losing time.

Patrick Friesacher, who finally got his Minardi going and returned to the pits, posts 1:28.997, which puts him ahead of teammate Albers, both drivers over 6s off the pace.

A 1:22.962 sees Kimi Raikkonen go second, the Finn just 0.104s off Schumacher's time. Meanwhile, teammate Wurz goes fourth.

Next time around the Austrian improves, to go third, as the Renault, BAR, Toyota and WilliamsF1 drivers wait resolutely in their garages.

As if to prove a point, and why not, Pedro de la Rosa begins a very, very hot lap. The Spaniard goes quickest of all in the first and second sectors, crossing the line at 1:21.212… that's 1.6s quicker than Schumacher.

With fifteen minutes remaining it's: de la Rosa ahead of Schumacher, Raikkonen, Wurz, Heidfeld, Zonta, Massa, Barrichello, Klien and Webber.

Everyone has been out now, other than for Jarno Trulli.

Schumacher improves, but remains 0.8s slower than de la Rosa, as Zonta goes third and Klien fourth. Jarno Trulli finally comes out to play.

A 1:24.126 sees David Coulthard go seventh, though moments later he's edged out by Rubens Barrichello.

The Minardis remain over 6s off the pace, and almost 2s off the pace of the Jordans. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come, the Faenza outfit deserves better than that.

With six minutes remaining, Jenson Button leaves his garage, as Tonio Liuzzi bumps teammate Coulthard down to ninth.

Button goes fifth with a 1:22.912, albeit 1.8s off the pace, as Felipe Massa improves but remains twelfth, ahead of Webber and Villeneuve.

As Webber improves to ninth (1:23.532), Button goes third, behind de la Rosa and Zonta.

Nick Heidfeld goes seventh and Sato eighth, but both drivers are over 2s off the pace.

Still no sign of Trulli, while teammate Ralf Schumacher is nineteenth, just ahead of the Minardi duo.

Takuma Sato improves to sixth, as the chequered flag comes out to indicate the end of the session.

Pedro de la Rosa is quickest, ahead of Zonta, Button, Schumacher, Klien, Sato, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Wurz and Webber.

No times from the Renault duo or Jarno Trulli, while Ralf Schumacher's time was surely just a token.

Not a bad return to action for Wurz, though he'll be keen to find that 0.4s deficit to teammate Raikkonen, while Liuzzi will be delighted to have won the first round in his 'battle' with teammate Coulthard.

However, let's not get too carried away, this is only Friday free practice after all.

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Published: 22/04/2005
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