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New Ferrari full of promise in Bahrain
April 01, 2005 16:54 IST
Michael Schumacher lifted struggling Formula One champions Ferrari's spirits on Friday by giving their new car a promising debut in first free practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
With championship pacesetters Renault, winner of the first two races of the season, doing little running to preserve tyres on a hot and dusty desert track, all eyes were on Ferrari's gleaming new F2005.
It took time to break cover, Schumacher completing an installation lap and then waiting before again blasting out of the pitlane in the last five minutes of the hour-long session.
The seven times world champion, winner of last year's first Grand Prix in the Middle East and 13 of 2004's 18 races, completed just five laps but he still boasted the second fastest time of one minute 32.120 seconds.
The German's quickest lap, just before the close, was 0.671 of a second slower than Toyota's Brazilian test driver Ricardo Zonta, who will not race on Sunday.
Schumacher's Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello also did five laps and was fifth fastest.
Renault, favourites for a third win in a row, followed a pattern set in the first two races and kept their powder dry.
Neither Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, winner in Australia, nor Spanish championship leader Fernando Alonso completed a timed lap.
Ferrari, winners of the last six constructors' championships, are on the back foot after starting the season with a modified version of last year's dominant F2004.
Schumacher has just two points on the board and Ferrari, yet to qualify in the top 10 and way off the pace in Malaysia, decided last week to introduce the F2005 two races earlier than planned.
The Italian team have not lost their new car's debut race since 1998 but face a far stronger challenge this time than in previous years.
Apart from Renault, McLaren can be expected to go well in Bahrain although their hopes were hit at the weekend when Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya suffered a hairline fracture of his shoulder.
His replacement, Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, was sixth quickest with a time of 1:33.270.
Austrian Alex Wurz, the official reserve driver who was passed over for the race because he has been too tall to fit into the 2005-specification McLaren, had his first taste of the new car.
McLaren have made hurried modifications to enable him to fit into the cockpit and take over De la Rosa's job in the third car in Friday practice.
The Austrian made an inauspicious start, pulling over 10 minutes into the session without having completed a timed lap.
He went back out after the car had returned to the pits on a flatbed truck, setting the fourth best time of 1:33.106 and completing 13 laps in all.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage