Friday March 1st, 2002
Japanese new boy Takuma Sato instigated the first red flag during the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Saturday morning when he slid off and crashed heavily after half an hour of the first free practice session. Sato, 25, was unhurt in the shunt which left the right front corner of his car seriously damaged.
The session was led by the two Ferraris, as Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher, in turn, clocked the fastest times ever round the Albert Park circuit. Both were well inside last year's pole time and established the Italian team as the outfit to beat this year again.
The session was run in cool and damp conditions. Pedro de la Rosa in his Jaguar and Mark Webber in his Minardi had both survived off-track excursions when Sato went off at high speed, the car spinning backwards and colliding with the barriers. The front right wheel was damaged, but did not break free from the car.
"He is alright," said team chief Eddie Jordan. "Thankfully. It is difficult with a new boy and we need to build up his confidence. He is going to have a long wait now until qualifying and we need to help him a bit.
"It is a good thing the wheel did not come loose and fly off. It shows the new rules for improved wheel tethering have worked now. But it is always unfortunate when this kind of thing happens so early in the weekend."
The session was red flagged and stopped for nine minutes following Sato's accident and, afterwards, the two Ferrari drivers traded their rapid laps to establish the team's massive early superiority over their rivals with their 'old' 2001 cars.
The two McLaren Mercedes-Benz drivers were next followed by the two Williams-BMWs showing that early season predictions of a scrap between the established 'big three' teams looked to be accurate again.
Pos Driver Team Times
1. M.Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:26.177 221.530 km/h
2. Barrichello Ferrari (B) 1:26.498 + 0.321
3. Coulthard McLaren Mercedes (M) 1:27.505 + 1.328
4. Raikkonen McLaren Mercedes (M) 1:27.818 + 1.641
5. R.Schumacher Williams BMW (M) 1:28.262 + 2.085
6. Montoya Williams BMW (M) 1:28.278 + 2.101
7. Panis BAR Honda (B) 1:28.570 + 2.393
8. Heidfeld Sauber Petronas (B) 1:28.579 + 2.402
9. Massa Sauber Petronas (B) 1:28.700 + 2.523
10. Trulli Renault (M) 1:28.773 + 2.596
11. Button Renault (M) 1:28.881 + 2.704
12. Fisichella Jordan Honda (B) 1:28.883 + 2.706
13. Villeneuve BAR Honda (B) 1:29.042 + 2.865
14. Frentzen Arrows Cosworth (B) 1:29.174 + 2.997
15. Bernoldi Arrows Cosworth (B) 1:29.724 + 3.547
16. Salo Toyota (M) 1:30.100 + 3.923
17. McNish Toyota (M) 1:30.179 + 4.002
18. Sato Jordan Honda (B) 1:30.914 + 4.737
19. Webber Minardi Asiatech (M) 1:31.203 + 5.026
20. de la Rosa Jaguar Cosworth (M) 1:31.286 + 5.109
21. Irvine Jaguar Cosworth (M) 1:31.411 + 5.234
22. Yoong Minardi Asiatech (M) 1:33.425 + 7.248
All Timing Unofficial
Published at 23:00:27 GMT