Free practice 1: Surprise, surprise

There were no surprises in the first session of free practice at Suzuka, with the Ferraris taking the top two positions. As usual McLaren and Williams disputed the ground behind the all-conquering Italian team, with David Coulthard giving the Mercedes team an early lead in the 'best of the rest' battle

Free practice 1: Surprise, surprise

As unwritten convention dictates, it was local hero Takuma Sato who was the first to put in a flying lap, a full 15 minutes into the one-hour session. The Jordan driver set a reasonable pace, but his opening mark of 1m43.389s is likely to be more than 10 seconds off this weekend's pole.

Sato lopped a further two seconds off his own best time on the following lap and improved by another second on his third effort. Sauber returnee, Felipe Massa, then broke the 1m40s barrier.

Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld spent a brief period at the head of the times, but normal order was soon restored as Juan Pablo Montoya broke into the 1m37s. Michael Schumacher's first effort left him a few hundredths shy of the Colombian, but tellingly contained two fastest sector times so it was no surprise when he raised the bar to a 1m36.109s with just over half the session remaining.

Shortly after the German set his time, the session was stopped when Jacques Villeneuve had a huge accident after he lost the rear of his BAR over the kerbs on the exit of the Spoon Curve and spun across the track and into the tyre barrier. The front end of the 004 was torn off in the impact, littering the track with carbon-fibre debris. Villeneuve was unharmed and climbed unassisted from the car.

To make matters worse for the team, the sister car of Olivier Panis stopped on track just as the red flag was shown and there will clearly be a lot of hard work and head scratching in the BAR pit ahead of the second session.

After a 10-minute break the action resumed. Rubens Barrichello put his name towards the head of the times with the fourth best time of the session, before running wide at the first of the Degner Curves and coating his Bridgestones with gravel.

The Brazilian later moved into second position, giving the times that all too familiar Ferrari one-two look. Behind the red barons was David Coulthard, the only other driver in the 1m36s. Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, Montoya fifth and Ralf Schumacher sixth

Eddie Irvine again showed well for Jaguar in seventh, with team-mate Pedro de la Rosa close behind in ninth. Jenson Button was 10th quickest for Renault, while Allan McNish will be hoping to find a bit more pace from his Toyota after finishing back in 17th position.

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