Montoya on Top, Firman Shines at Valencia - Day One

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya went quickest on the first day of testing this week at the Valencia circuit, where three Formula One teams continued with their preparation work ahead of the 2003 season.

Montoya on Top, Firman Shines at Valencia - Day One

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya went quickest on the first day of testing this week at the Valencia circuit, where three Formula One teams continued with their preparation work ahead of the 2003 season.

Montoya, at the wheel of the new Williams FW25, set a fastest lap of 1:12.443 as the Grove-based outfit resumed the development work of the new car. Williams worked with both their drivers today, with German Ralf Schumacher finishing as third quickest.

Both drivers, however, were hit by several problems, forcing the session to be red-flagged three times after their cars stopped on track with mechanical failures.

Spaniard Fernando Alonso was second quickest with the Renault R23 after 38 laps. The French squad's test driver Allan McNish was involved in the most spectacular incident of the day, his engine exploding in dramatic fashion during the morning session. The Scot driver finished at the bottom of the times.

"We had a productive first day of testing with Allan focusing on long runs aimed at race-reliability for the first Grand Prix of the season," explained Renault technical director Mike Gascoyne. "In the morning however, his run was cut short due to engine problems.

"In the afternoon he ran useful mileage even though his testing was hampered by minor gearbox problem. Tomorrow Allan will continue race-reliability evaluation. Fernando had a limited programme to work on today with some engine mapping. In the next days he will concentrate on Michelin tyre evaluation for Melbourne."

Briton Ralph Firman today made his debut with the Jordan team after it was announced last week that he will partner Giancarlo Fisichella at the Silverstone-based outfit. Firman was the busiest man today with 71 laps, and posted a promising time of 1:13.471, slightly over half a second behind Ralf Schumacher.

The 27-year old, the current Formula Nippon champion, was impressed with the power of his car, and claimed he hadn't pushed hard.

"The power of the engines in these cars is amazing," said Firman at the end of the day, "that's why I had to be prudent in this first test. It went well today and I'm really happy. Obviously F1 cars are hugely quicker than others I've driven, their braking capacity is immense, and they are much better in high speed corners.

"It's great that I was able to get so many laps in today."

Testing at Valencia continues tomorrow, when Ferrari are scheduled to join with Rubens Barrichello and their F2002 car.

Today's times:

Pos Driver Team-Engine Tyres Time Laps 1. Montoya Williams-BMW (M) 1:12.443 44 2. Alonso Renault (M) 1:12.552 38 3. R.Schumacher Williams-BMW (M) 1:12.918 64 4. Firman Jordan-Ford (B) 1:13.471 71 5. McNish Renault (M) 1:14.955 56 All Timing Unofficial

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