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McLaren target British GP podium
Alan Baldwin | July 10, 2004 10:53 IST
McLaren set their sights on a first podium finish of the season after Kimi Raikkonen led Friday's British Grand Prix practice.
The Finn, overall runner-up last year but with just 10 points to his credit so far, lapped 0.005 of a second quicker than Italian Giancarlo Fisichella's Sauber in the second session.
British team mate David Coulthard, twice a winner of his home race, was fourth fastest on the track in the much revised MP4-19B car that made an encouraging race debut in France last weekend.
Ferrari, fastest in the morning, remained the clear favourites with Formula One's six times world champion Michael Schumacher running on used tyres but still third fastest.
"We have learnt a lot and will see what the next couple of days bring," said the Scot. "MP4-19B is an improvement and I feel that it should be possible to get on the podium, so that has to be the goal."
That would be a significant turnaround in a deeply disappointing season, Raikkonen's fifth place in Canada after four cars were disqualified is the team's best result.
The idea of a podium would have been laughed at only a few races previously but there was no doubt that McLaren were fighting back.
"The McLaren is impressive here," said BAR's local hero Jenson Button, who was fifth fastest. "They are going to be a threat."
Fisichella's day was bittersweet, his car finding its pace only after the engine was changed in the morning -- a move imposing a 10-place penalty on the starting grid after Saturday's qualifying.
"We have taken a big step forward," said Fisichella. "This step here in Silverstone is probably the biggest of them all...I am really, really optimistic."
Schumacher, winner of nine of the season's 10 races and seeking his 80th career victory on Sunday, will not have lost too much sleep at the times.
Technical director Ross Brawn revealed that the German had run the second session on used tyres after a weather forecast suggested it would rain.
"Overall I am quite happy with our performance today," said Schumacher. "We know the competition is tough with some of them looking very strong today.
"However I believe we will be in the fight for the win. Now we have to work out the best way to go about achieving that."
Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello fired up his challenge for a second successive British win with the quickest time in the morning.
The Brazilian, without a victory so far this season, won from pole position with a lap record time in 2003 and is eager to repeat the feat after finishing runner-up six times.
Williams looked strong in the first session, with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya third and Spanish stand-in Marc Gene fourth quickest in his second race in a row as a replacement for injured Ralf Schumacher.
"Track conditions were changing quite a lot throughout the sessions but...I am reasonably happy with the balance of my car," said Montoya.
Germany's Timo Glock crashed with eight minutes remaining in the second session when his Jordan lost a rear wheel. The test driver, who will not race on Sunday, emerged unscathed.
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