Ferrari set the pace in Monaco
Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher set the pace for the Scuderia Ferrari team in Monaco on Thursday morning, the opening free practice session for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix. Irvine ended up almost 0.6sec quicker than teammate Schumacher who lost a lot of time at the beginning of the session when he slid wide and damaged a front right suspension pick-up point after brushing the barriers. "The car felt pretty good right out of the box. I only made small adjustments throughout the session, but the car got quicker all the time mainly as the dust came off the track," explained Irvine.
Schumacher was also happy with his car despite his early incident, both Ferraris running a new rear wing and other aerodynamic modifications for this high-downforce track. They were also equipped with a new steering wheel with bigger digital display showing more parameters.
Hill third fastest for Jordan
Damon Hill was well up for the Jordan team setting the third fastest time just behind the Ferraris. ""It's good to have a car that has good mechanical grip here," said Hill. Heinz-Harald Frentzen ended up back in seventh place when he slid straight on at Portier corner because of excessive understeer. He stopped short of the barriers, but because the marshals pushed him backwards allowing him to continue the lap he was kept in the pits for the rest of the session for having received outside assistance.
Barrichello going well for Stewart-Ford
Rubens Barrichello put his Stewart for in te top six places again when he took the fourth fastest time for the Stewart team. Johnny Herbert was back in eighth place, both drivers complaining of a lack of grip from the "green" track which was the usual complaint of most of the drivers on the first day of practice around Monaco's street circuit."I cannot believe how much my car is under-steering here," said Herbert.
Zanardi going well in Monaco
Alex Zanardi and the Williams-Supertec were at home around the Monaco track, the Italian driver setting an impressive fifth fastest time. However, his teammate Ralf Schumacher was at the bottom end of the time sheets this morning after the German parked his Williams at Mirabeau when the engine blew coming out of Casino.
Sauber complain of understeer
Although Jean Alesi managed the sixth fastest time of the session he was unhappy with his car's understeer problem this morning, his teammate Pedro Diniz similarly unhappy back in 12th place.
The McLaren drivers were well down in 11th and 14th places this morning, both of them deciding to use the session trying different set-ups and tyres instead of going for a quick time. "It's a question of when you go about your homework at this track. Either the first session or later in the weekend," said a team spokesman.
The Prost drivers both complained of understeer, Trulli taking tenth fastest despite a long stop to repair a damaged half shaft. Panis did not better 16th spot.
Both Benettons were running new front and rear wings and suspension for this race, Fisichella taking ninth fastest time , while Wurz was 13th after being delayed by gearbox trouble.
The BAR team could not better 15th and 18th position this morning, both Mika Salo (15th) and Jacques Villeneuve complaining of poor traction at this track.
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Irvine Ferrari 1:24.627 143.231 Kmph
2. M.Schumacher Ferrari 1:25.224 + 0.597
3. Hill Jordan Mugen-Honda 1:25.400 + 0.773
4. Barrichello Stewart Ford 1:25.442 + 0.815
5. Zanardi Williams Supertec 1:25.748 + 1.121
6. Alesi Sauber Petronas 1:26.093 + 1.466
7. Frentzen Jordan Mugen-Honda 1:26.336 + 1.709
8. Herbert Stewart Ford 1:26.379 + 1.752
9. Fisichella Benetton Playlife 1:26.542 + 1.915
10. Trulli Prost Peugeot 1:26.614 + 1.987
11. Hakkinen Mclaren Mercedes 1:26.711 + 2.084
12. Diniz Sauber Petronas 1:26.900 + 2.273
13. Wurz Benetton Playlife 1:27.028 + 2.401
14. Coulthard Mclaren Mercedes 1:27.244 + 2.617
15. Panis Prost Peugeot 1:27.496 + 2.869
16. Takagi Arrows TWR 1:27.618 + 2.991
17. Villeneuve BAR Supertec 1:28.094 + 3.467
18. Salo BAR Supertec 1:29.136 + 4.509
19. Badoer Minardi Ford 1:29.310 + 4.683
20. De La Rosa Arrows TWR 1:30.596 + 5.969
21. Gene Minardi Ford 1:32.129 + 7.502
22. R.Schumacher Williams Supertec 1:34.265 + 9.638
Weather: Dry, Sunny
All timing unofficial