Schumacher sets pace in new Ferrari

Five-time defending F1 champion Michael Schumacher drove his new Ferrari to the top time in pre-qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday with teammate Ru

updated: February 25, 2007 09:48 IST
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Michael Schumacher felt comfortable in his new car but that is sure to make his rivals uneasy. The five-time defending F1 champion drove his new Ferrari to the top time in pre-qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday with teammate Rubens Barrichello in third. On a warm, humid day, Schumacher timed 1 minute, 17.130 seconds on the 4.73-kilometer (2.93-mile) Circuit de Catalunya after finishing just 15th in the morning free practice. "I feel very comfortable in the car and after a good start it means we can be confident for the rest of the weekend," Schumacher said. "It's a nice feeling to be racing the new car. And this provisional pole means that so far the car has lived up to our expectations." After having a rough start to the season, Schumacher, the five-time defending champion, is just third in the driver standings so far with 18 points from four races, trailing leader Kimi Raikkonen by 14 points and the Finn's McLaren teammate David Coulthard by a point. Pre-qualifying determines the order of Saturday's official qualifying session. The drivers have just one lap to post a time to determine the starting grid for Sunday's race. The new Ferrari model F2003-GA, named for the late Gianni Agnelli who ran Fiat, the parent company of Ferrari, had its first official outing after a few crashes delayed its debut. Using the F2002 model, Schumacher won the last F1 race, the San Marino Grand Prix. He also won the last two Spanish Grand Prix races and four overall here since 1995, including his first as a Ferrari driver in 1996. Second on Friday was Jarno Trulli, continuing Renault's success this year with 1:17.149. Third was Barrichello in the other Ferrari at 1:17.218. Raikkonen was eighth in 1:17.862. As the leading scorer so far, he was the first to do a timed lap. "The track was very dirty when I went out, which definitely cost me some time and the track appeared to become cleaner towards the end," said Raikkonen, who finished on the podium in the first four races of the season, winning in Malaysia in March and collecting two second places and one third. Rising Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso in a Renault gave his numerous followers brief excitement by leading the free practice session Friday before dropping to third. In the pre-qualifying, he finished a disappointing 10th in 1:18.100. The Toyotas surprised with Cristiano Da Matta in fourth with 1:17.443 and Olivier Panis sixth at 1:17.746. Between them was Jenson Button in a BAR-Honda, 1:17.613. Mark Webber in a Jaguar was seventh in 1:17.93, followed by Coulthard in 1:18.060. Williams' Ralf Schumacher, who led the morning practice in 1:17.015, was more than a second slower than his brother in 1:18.409. He missed a few turns slightly in his run putting him just 11th. Saturday's session will have the drivers in reverse order to determine the starting grid. The strategy for the race will play a part because the teams will not be able to add fuel or change tires until the race begins on Sunday. This has affected the standings because there have been four different winners in the first four races of the season for the first time since 1983. (AP)