Montoya the early leader at Indy
First practice for the US Grand Prix got off to the worst possible start for McLaren this morning, but ended well for the team.Pedro de la Rosa set the first fast time with 1m 12.913s, but then the Spaniard’s MP4-20 rolled to a halt in Turn 2 and he was unable to get it going again. At a stroke the team lost the advantage of its third driver, and its tyre assessment programme was compromised. Then Kimi Raikkonen slid off the road after appearing only in the final 10 minutes, and after a trip through the gravel in Turn 11 the Finn went straight back to the pits without recording a time.
It was left to Juan Pablo Montoya to uphold team honours, and this he did perfectly, exorcising the demons of Canada with fastest time of 1m 12.027s. That compared to pole position in 2004 which fell to Rubens Barrichello in 1m 10.223s.Ricardo Zonta was second quickest for Toyota on 1m 12.085s, followed by Fernando Alonso for Renault on 1m 12.666s, Nick Heidfeld for Williams on 1m 12.804s, and Jenson Button for BAR on 1m 12.865s. De la Rosa’s time stood up for sixth best overall, which showed how quickly he had been going after only four laps.Takuma Sato’s seventh spot (1m 13.013s) endorsed BAR’s strong form, Giancarlo Fisichella was eighth for Renault with 1m 13.024s, and Mark Webber posted 1m 13.082s in the Williams, demonstrating how close the times are thus far.
The Ferraris were only 10th and 11th fastest even though Michael Schumacher was the first topliner to appear with 21 minutes left. The champion lapped in 1m 13.242s and Rubens Barrichello, who ran off the road momentarily after overshooting Turn 1, was only three-thousandths of a second behind him on 1m 13.245s.
Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli played themselves in with 12th and 13th fastest times respectively for Toyota, 1m 13.461s and 1m 13.683s, then came the three Red Bulls. David Coulthard was the quickest with 1m 13.740s, but American rookie Scott Speed pleased his home fans with 15th fastest time of 1m 13.846s. Christian Klien managed 1m 14.444.
Felipe Massa pipped Sauber team mate Jacques Villeneuve in the last minute, recording 1m 14.637s compared to the French-Canadian’s 1m 14.696s. The former champion went off the road in Turn 11. Next up were the Jordans of Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro. The Indian enjoyed off-course moments in Turn 11 and then Turn 6 but posted a respectable 1m 14.896s. The Portuguese driver’s best lap in a less adventurous outing was 1m 14.978s. Robert Doornbos was back in action for the team, too, lapping in 1m 15.791s.
Patrick Friesacher was the faster Minardi driver this time with 1m 16.343s, with Christijan Albers right behind him on 1m 16.357s. The Dutchman was another to have an off-road moment, in Turn 4.
Right at the back, Raikkonen did not record a flying lap.
The conditions this morning were fine, with a light breeze, an ambient temperature of 25 degrees Celsius, and a track temperature of 51. With more rubber going down, the times will fall further this afternoon.