Friday March 16th, 2001
Italian Jarno Trulli's hopes rose with the temperatures on Friday as he set the fastest time in free practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Jordan driver set the pace during the afternoon session, lapping the ultra-modern Sepang circuit in the strength-sapping heat in one minute 38.846 seconds.
Ferrari's world champion Michael Schumacher, seeking his sixth win in a row in Sunday's race, was second quickest.
The German was 0.083 seconds behind Trulli and was followed by his team mate Rubens Barrichello, who had been fastest in the first session. McLaren's David Coulthard was fourth with team mate Mika Hakkinen sixth.
"Today I had a good day. It was my first totally trouble-free session in a long time and I just hope that I have a similar day tomorrow and not a repeat of Melbourne," said Trulli.
The Italian was second quickest in practice for the season- opening Australian Grand Prix but qualified seventh and was forced to retire with an engine misfire during the race.
"I am confident that every time I step in the car I can push to 100 percent," said Trulli. "I am also satisfied because we don't appear to be too far behind McLaren and Ferrari.
"It seems we have taken the right direction in the development of the car's performance," added the Italian.
The times, which will be under close scrutiny during Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race because of official concern over rising speeds, remained slower than Schumacher's 2000 pole of 1:37.397 but faster than the equivalent session last year.
Faster on Saturday
"Friday doesn't mean an awful lot but its better to be fast than slow," said Trulli's team boss Eddie Jordan.
"We seem to be quite fast here but anything can happen tomorrow. It will be a lot quicker tomorrow because there's fuel in the car today and not everyone's trying their best, they're doing all sorts of things."
Williams technical director Patrick Head could only agree after a difficult day for the BMW-powered team.
"I'm sure that we're going to see last year's pole position beaten by quite a margin but I doubt by four seconds," he said, referring to the margin of improvement seen in Melbourne between Schumacher's 2001 pole and Hakkinen's 2000 time.
Hakkinen said he had experienced some problems finding the right balance for his car, with a lack of front-end grip making the McLaren very difficult to drive.
Schumacher, chasing his sixth successive pole position, said he had sorted out his tyres and set-up problems but was feeling the heat.
"The car coped well with the high temperatures and from a driving point of view I felt cooler in the car than out of it. Nevertheless, I am sweating, which is unusual for me," he said.
"It would be nice to take the air-conditioning system out of the office and put it in the car."
Trulli's time, coupled with team mate Heinz Harald Frentzen's seventh fastest position, left Jordan comfortably ahead of Honda-powered rivals British American Racing, who had Frenchman Olivier Panis as their fastest driver in 1:40.229.
Several teams had problems in the first session, with Jaguar's Eddie Irvine coasting to a halt on the track with three minutes remaining.
Both the Arrows of Brazilian Enrique Bernoldi and Dutchman Jos Verstappen pulled up on the circuit early in the session with suspected gearbox problems after they had completed just five laps each.
Colombian debutant Juan Pablo Montoya, making his first appearance in Malaysia, failed to register a competitive time in his Williams as the team worked to fix a fuel pick-up problem which arose in morning practice.
"I think he was so exasperated that it was beyond cursing and swearing," said Head. "It comes under the heading of character building."
"It looked like every problem was falling on me today," commented the Colombian. "First a fuel problem, then an electrical problem."
Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, in a Benetton, went off into a gravel trap in the afternoon but ended up 13th fastest.
Pos. Driver Team Times
1. Trulli Jordan Honda (B) 1:38.846 201.878 km/h
2. M.Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:38.929 + 0.083
3. Barrichello Ferrari (B) 1:38.931 + 0.085
4. Coulthard McLaren Mercedes (B) 1:39.300 + 0.454
5. Irvine Jaguar Cosworth (M) 1:39.520 + 0.674
6. Hakkinen McLaren Mercedes (B) 1:39.861 + 1.015
7. Frentzen Jordan Honda (B) 1:40.197 + 1.351
8. Burti Jaguar Cosworth (M) 1:40.211 + 1.365
9. Panis BAR Honda (B) 1:40.229 + 1.383
10. R.Schumacher Williams BMW (M) 1:40.617 + 1.771
11. Villeneuve BAR Honda (B) 1:41.003 + 2.157
12. Heidfeld Sauber Petronas (B) 1:41.027 + 2.181
13. Fisichella Benetton Renault (M) 1:41.375 + 2.529
14. Raikkonen Sauber Petronas (B) 1:41.592 + 2.746
15. Verstappen Arrows Asiatech (B) 1:41.794 + 2.948
16. Alesi Prost Acer (M) 1:41.834 + 2.988
17. Button Benetton Renault (M) 1:42.214 + 3.368
18. Bernoldi Arrows Asiatech (B) 1:42.541 + 3.695
19. Mazzacane Prost Acer (M) 1:42.563 + 3.717
20. Marques European Minardi (M) 1:42.872 + 4.026
21. Alonso European Minardi (M) 1:43.107 + 4.261
22. Montoya Williams BMW (M) 2:13.188 + 34.342
All timing unofficial