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Ferrari dominate Australia Friday practice 01 Mar 2002


The Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello were unbeatable in Friday's two practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix. Despite using last year's F2001, the Ferrari pair were never threatened at the top of the time sheets, leaving their opposition much to think about ahead of tomorrow's qualifying session.
Both Williams made the top six in changeable conditions at Albert Park, but rivals McLaren struggled with Kimi Raikkonen finishing seventh - four places ahead of team-mate David Coulthard. The day's biggest surprise however was Toyota, with Mika Salo setting the sixth-fastest time on the team's very first appearance.

After the rain of first practice the second session started in dry conditions, with track temperature up from 16 to 22 degrees. However, the changes did not alter Ferrari's dominance. Both drivers were on the circuit within four minutes and Schumacher immediately improved on his first practice time.

Barrichello pushed hard to challenge his team-mate and almost came unstuck when he went spinning across the grass less than ten minutes into the session. However, he avoided the barriers and continued to pressure Schumacher throughout the hour.



Williams drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya languished for much of the session in the lower reaches of the top ten, before both men powered up the order in the final few minutes to move ahead of their Sauber and McLaren rivals.

David Coulthard had a disappointing session, being outpaced by his new team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, after failing to get the best out of the new MP4-17. Raikkonen spent much of the hour tussling with former colleague Nick Heidfeld, the Sauber driver eventually emerging the winner in fifth place.

Rain briefly interrupted proceedings again just over half way through the hour. Its only victim was Minardi's Alex Yoong who beached his car in the gravel. Not surprisingly the Malaysian driver finished the session last, two places behind new team-mate and local favourite Mark Webber.



Jordan had a frustrating hour. Giancarlo Fisichella had been running as high as fifth, but with less than ten minutes remaining his Honda engine expired, leaving him stranded by the side of the track. He nevertheless ended the day inside the top ten. New team-mate Takuma Sato also experienced drama as he locked up under braking and put his Jordan through the gravel trap before recovering to finish in 13th place.

What was looking to be a highly respectable debut for Toyota suddenly became a very impressive one when Mika Salo leaped from 15th to third place with 14 minutes remaining. He couldn't quite fend off the charging Williams pair or Heidfeld's Sauber, but fifth fastest on their first competitive appearance was a real achievement for Toyota.

Salo's rookie team-mate Alan McNish couldn't quite match the Finn's pace, but did manage to beat the likes of Eddie Irvine to finish 16th fastest. Jaguar had been expected to struggle after disappointing pre-season testing and so it proved. Both Irvine and team-mate Pedro de la Rosa looked strong early in the session, but as their rivals improved the British team slipped rapidly down the time sheets, finishing 17th and 14th respectively.



BAR experienced mixed fortunes in their first outing with new boss Dave Richards at the helm. While Olivier Panis ended the day down in 18th, it was left to team-mate Jacques Villeneuve to prove the new Honda-powered car has potential, as he recorded the 12th-fastest time, just four hundredths slower than Coulthard's McLaren.

The Renaults of Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button finished 10th and 15th respectively after an uneventful second hour, while Sauber rookie Felipe Massa acquitted himself well, despite rumours of his imminent departure, making the top ten in eighth place.

As was often the case last year Arrows joined Minardi at the bottom of the time sheets. Gearbox problems left Enrique Bernoldi languishing in 21st place, while new team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen fared little better, finishing 19th fastest.

However at the other end of the order it was Ferrari who were the story of the day. The Italian team's decision to run last year's car has come under fire from many quarters, but on today's performance it looks like they may just have made the right choice. With both the Williams a full second off their pace the Scuderia have to be favourite to take pole on Saturday.
 
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