Free Practice 1: Barrichello's quick start

Ferrari finished the first practice session for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix in first and second on the time sheets. But it was Rubens Barrichello and not the man looking for his sixth GP win on the trot, Michael Schumacher, who topped the list

Free Practice 1: Barrichello's quick start

Michelin and Bridgestone had predicted lap times would not tumble in quite the same dramatic manner seen in Melbourne a fortnight ago, and for now that seems to be the case: Barrichello's fastest lap, set late in the one-hour session, was a mere 1m39.502s, compared to the 1m37.397s pole time set by Schumacher last autumn.

The tyre war caused by the re-entry of Michelin into F1 had seen lap times drop by as much as four seconds in Australia. But the nature of the Sepang circuit - and the fact that F1 last raced there only five months ago - means lap times are expected to be quicker, but not by the quantum leap of Melbourne.

Ferrari waited until 25 minutes of the session had ticked by before condescending to appear on the Sepang circuit. But after that, the team dominated the top two spots, whittling the fastest time down from the high 1m40s mark in an undramatic session that bordered on the lethargic.

Third fastest was Jordan's Jarno Trulli (1m40.135s), with his team mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen sixth overall (1m41.007s) and no doubt glad to be in his car and away from the storm that has erupted following his quotes on the Sauber team's Melbourne form.

Neither McLaren-Mercedes driver pushed for a fast time, with David Coulthard fourth and Mika Hakkinen seventh on the now obligatory (for McLaren, that is) day one full tanks. DC had briefly held second, but it appears that the Woking team won't be showing its true hand today.

Eddie Irvine's Jaguar was best of the Michelin runners, taking an excellent fifth, but grinding to a halt immediately afterwards with transmission problems. His team mate Luciano Burti was the only other Michelin runner in the top 10, taking ninth.

Olivier Panis was best of the BARs in eighth, while local heroes (by dint of sponsor Petronas) Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen were 10th and 11th respectively.

Williams-BMW's Ralf Schumacher was a disappointing 14th, but that was a lot better than his team mate Juan Pablo Montoya, who failed to leave the garage as the team tried unsuccessfully to trace a fuel pick-up problem.

Former Champ Car ace Montoya has never driven at Sepang before, so circuit time would appear to essential for the COlombian.

But Williams' problems were nothing compared to Arrows, which saw both of its cars stop within seconds and yards of each other with electrical problems. Enrique Bernoldi was first to grind to a halt, with Jos Verstappen pulling off at Turn 4 - one corner before Bernoldi's place of rest - about 30s later.

Arrows poor showing and a bad morning for Benetton's Jenson Button allowed another relatively giant-killing act from the European Minardi squad, with Tarso Marques taking 16th overall.

Click here for the practice session 1 results.

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