Friday team by team: Part 1

Autosport.com's Formula 1 editor Jonathan Noble gives a rundown of what was happening up and down the pit-lane during the first day of practice for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix

Friday team by team: Part 1



No surprises at the front as Michael Schumacher proved the master of the wet conditions to comfortably take the top spot in both practice sessions - although it was not all plain sailing after a wild twitch through the kink into the hairpin resulted in him running off the track and across the gravel trap early in the second session. Rubens Barrichello thought it pointless to take any risks and ended the day fourth overall.

RUBENS BARRICHELLO: "It has been a difficult day because, as much as I like driving in the wet, today's conditions have made it almost impossible to do any meaningful work. I was not even pushing on the straights as it was not worth it. I feel sorry for all the Japanese fans who came today. Hopefully, Sunday will be a better day and we and the fans will be able to enjoy ourselves."

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER: "Overall, it was an interesting day running in the rain here at Suzuka. Because of the weather we could not do as much running as we would have liked, but at least we managed to do a bit of work on the car. Now, we have to wait and see what happens tomorrow with the weather. Already today, it was almost impossible to drive and if conditions get worse, which seems likely, I don't think we could go out on track. If that happens, maybe I'll play football or backgammon..."




Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya had a day to forget, with neither driver completing many laps or setting representative times. Both men did short run stints so the team could check the wet set-up, with Schumacher ending up 12th fastest and Montoya 13th.

RALF SCHUMACHER: "Not much to say due to the amount of water on the track and the large amount of aquaplaning we had today. I would hope we could get some better work in tomorrow, but unfortunately it does not look this way at the moment. It would be more sensible not to run at all tomorrow."

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: "I cannot say much about the car really, because I had very little running today and we could not really work on anything. But it's the same for everyone. The track was massively wet at first but it wasn't too bad after a few cars had been running. Still, if the rain keeps increasing as it looks like it will, I'll be surprised if we will be running tomorrow. With the prospect of a dry race it will be interesting, very interesting."




Kimi Raikkonen upheld Michelin's honour in the wet as he ended the day as the quickest driver on the French tyre company's rubber. However, the 1.3 seconds difference between his third fastest best lap and Michael Schumacher at the top of the timesheets will be a cause for concern. David Coulthard was fifth overall in the second session after a precautionary clutch change.

KIMI RAIKKONEN: "Obviously very tricky and constantly changing conditions today. The circuit had lots of water on it, which made it very difficult to do any real set-up work. Nevertheless it is a start and at least it's encouraging that I'm the fastest Michelin runner. Now we wait to see how the weather will develop tomorrow and how the predicted typhoon will affect the rest of the weekend's running."

DAVID COULTHARD: "We worked on set-up for wet weather today as there is a good chance that the rainy conditions will remain tomorrow. I had a late start to the first practice session as the team decided to change my clutch as a precaution since some data showed that it might have developed a problem. We didn't want to take that risk in the rain. However it didn't really affect my programme as we gathered enough data in the second session."




Renault found itself in the same boat as many of its rivals as it completed a fraction of the work it hoped to do on Friday. Jacques Villeneuve ended up 10th overall as he got used to driving a Formula 1 car in the wet again, while Fernando Alonso was 11th after a brief trip across the gravel trap between the two Degner Curves.

JACQUES VILLENEUVE: "There is no point in talking too much about our work today: the conditions were very poor and the car was aquaplaning a lot, which meant it was actually floating on the track surface and the driver had no control. However, we managed to complete a small part of our programme and given that it was my first time driving this car in the wet, I was pretty pleased. The R24 is quite easy to drive and predictable in these conditions."

FERNANDO ALONSO: "We didn't learn much today: it ended up being a case of just getting used to driving the car again after two weeks. The conditions were very hard, and there was too much water on the track, which meant we were aquaplaning in lots of places. It was the same for everybody, but with bad weather forecast for the rest of the weekend, it didn't really help any of us either!"



Takuma Sato may have disappointed his eager Japanese fans by only just breaking into the top 10 on the opening day of practice, but with the times ultimately meaning little because of the weather conditions the team remains upbeat about its prospects. Sato was eighth quickest, one place ahead of third driver Anthony Davidson while Jenson Button was a lowly 20th.

TAKUMA SATO: "We could do nothing about the weather today but it meant the conditions were very difficult for everyone. It's frustrating and I feel so sorry for the fans that have been sitting here in the rain all day and have not seen much action from the cars. From a performance point of view, the heavy wet conditions meant that we had some issues with aquaplaning and the car was tricky to control. Despite the weather getting worse, we had to continue running in the second session to get as much information as possible."

ANTHONY DAVIDSON: "The constant rain made life very difficult for everybody today. We weren't able to work through our planned programme at all and we were limited on laps because most of the time the circuit was undriveable as we were just aquaplaning. It is very disappointing for me not to have achieved any dry running on one of the best tracks in the world and be able to get a real feel for it. I think Jenson and Takuma's equally frustrating start to the weekend is likely to continue through to the race on Sunday."

JENSON BUTTON: "The first session was very wet and the start of the second session was equally wet, but it was driveable. You wouldn't want to race or test in those conditions, given the choice, as we had quite a bit of aquaplaning but at least we could keep it on the track. As we got further into the second session though it was really wet, the circuit was drenched and it was very dangerous. There was no visibility; you couldn't see the car in front until you were one and a half car lengths behind. It looks like it will be just as bad tomorrow - if not worse - so I would definitely support a move to run qualifying on Sunday morning, when the rain is expected to ease up a little."

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