Free practice 1: Kimi leads McLaren 1-2

McLaren-Mercedes ended the first free practice session of the 2003 Formula 1 season on top when Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard set first and second quickest times in Melbourne, Australia

Free practice 1: Kimi leads McLaren 1-2

Raikkonen and Coulthard fired their best times in five minutes before the end of the session, the only men to slip inside the 1m26sec bracket, ahead of Jarno Trulli's Renault which only completed seven laps during the session, a legacy of the team's lengthy running earlier this morning.

Trying to accurately gauge the state of play is even more difficult on Friday than before because not only are teams running to different programmes (some having already been out in the earlier private test session), but some will concentrate more than others on preparation for Friday afternoon's single-lap qualifying.

The McLarens, for example, recorded their quick times right at the end of the session, making a significant jump, so it is reasonable to assume that they were on low fuel levels. The Williams drivers, on the other hand, turned 1m27.9s on their first flying laps of the day but then failed to improve during the 36 subsequent laps that the pair completed between them.

Interestingly, those first laps by the Williams drivers were quicker than any of the teams managed in the earlier two hours of private testing. Trulli (1m27.286s), however, who was quickest in that earlier session, ended up third fastest despite turning just a further seven laps as Michelin-shod cars took the top three spots.

Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari was fourth fastest (1m27.459s), just 0.2s quicker than a promising time from Mark Webber's Jaguar (1m27.654s), which also had a spin. Michael Schumacher's Ferrari ended the session 0.01s behind the local hero!

Fernando Alonso (1m27.671s) was seventh quickest with the second Renault, Nick Heidfeld (1m27.918s) eighth aboard the first Sauber, with the Williams-BMWs of Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher completing the top 10.

Antonio Pizzonia backed up Webber's performance with a promising 11th quickest lap (1m28.092s) in the second Jaguar. Olivier Panis was fast early in the session for Toyota before stopping out on the circuit with a mechanical problem, while F1 rookie Cristiano Da Matta finished the session in 15th place (1m28.698s) with the second TF103.

It was a disastrous opening session for the BAR-Hondas, with Jacques Villeneuve pulling off with the back of the car blazing merrily just 11 minutes into the session and team mate Jenson Button joining him on the sidelines four minutes later. Further down, Ralph Firman (1m29.531s) finished his first official session in 16th place and Justin Wilson (1m30.606s) had a quick spin en route to 19th in the Minardi, four tenths adrift of team mate Jos Verstappen.

The initial impression, judging from Webber's performance allied to the immediate Williams pace, is that Michelin has brought a tyre that is very quick over one lap - effectively a qualifier - but which then has significant drop-off.

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