Timothy Collings' Spanish GP Friday Practice Report
Friday May 5th, 2000
By Timothy Collings
David Coulthard returned to Formula One action on Friday, three days after he clambered from the wreckage of a fatal air crash, and said he felt no discomfort behind the wheel.
The 29-year-old Scot was fifth fastest while world championship-leading German Michael Schumacher topped the practice times for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix in his Ferrari, ahead of his 24-year-old brother Ralf in a Williams.
Coulthard, winner of the British Grand Prix two weekends ago, completed 20 laps in his McLaren.
"The residual bruising from the aircraft accident is not causing me any discomfort in the car and I feel fine," said Coulthard afterwards. "I very much appreciate the media giving me the opportuntity to concentrate on this race.
"During today's two sessions, we worked through a few set-up variations and we experienced no problems."
Coulthard did only one lap in the morning session which prompted concern that he was struggling with his bruised rib-cage and grazed and bruised elbows.
But this was dismissed by team boss Ron Dennis: "It was a normal Friday in Barcelona with nothing more than fuel load, ambient temperature and track conditions providing the answer to the time differences between the top cars."
Coulthard's team-mate, the world champion Mika Hakkinen, wound up in seventh place and complained that the higher temperatures and the changed conditions since last week's test had made it difficult for him to find enough grip.
"It was difficult for me to find the right balance for my car," said Hakkinen. "I don't know what caused the slippery track surface, but it could be the temperature. We will have to see what happens tomorrow."
Schumacher Sets The Pace
The Ferrari drivers set the pace while the two McLaren men, who came home first and second last year with Hakkinen leading the way, were content to prepare for Saturday's qualifying session and Sunday's race.
Schumacher was fastest with Brazilian Rubens Barrichello in the second Ferrari third fastest.
Italian Jarno Trulli, in a Jordan, was fourth and Briton Jenson Button was sixth in a Williams behind Coulthard.
The sight of Schumacher on top again, as he was in testing last week, was predictable on an overcast day at the Circuit de Catalunya where the teams have tested intensively.
Their familiarity with the circuit means they have accumulated a lot of data for their cars and have little need to push hard on the opening day.
"Obviously most of the cars did not do many laps as we have tested many things here last week," said Schumacher. "Your tyres are limited and so it is important to save them for the important moments in qualifying and the race.
"We concentrated on fine tuning the set-up and working on some of the question marks following the last test and it went well. This session is not as exciting as when you come to a track where you have not tested before. It is more relaxed."
Some teams were struggling however, with the BARs of Brazilian Ricardo Zonta and Canadian Jacques Villeneuve in 17th and 21st places respectively.
"All the good work we did at the test last week was not really of use today because the track has changed so much," said Villeneuve.
"It's quite a lot hotter and there's a lot of rubber dust from other cars on the surface, which means we have lost grip and, with it, our set-up."
The team also had hydraulic system difficulties.