McLaren fastest in Italy practice session

McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa finished fastest in first practice for the San Marino Grand Prix in Italy on Friday as world champions Ferrari were outpaced by their rivals.

Michael Schumacher, who struggled to perform in the first three races and has only scored two points so far, showed his hand early at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari to set the pace.

But Spaniard De la Rosa, who is back in the third driver role after racing in Bahrain, was more than a match for the seven-time world champion and his Ferrari F2005, and completed the session with a time of 1:21,06.

Schumacher finished a second off the pace in fourth as Ferrari’s fans attended in limited numbers on Friday, and he will have to improve when the Tifosi comes out in force this weekend.

Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta finished second fastest, with a time just 0,114 seconds off the pace, while rejuvenated Briton Jenson Button, in his BAR-Honda, finished third 0,745 seconds off the pace.

Christian Klien, who has been dropped to the third driver role for Red Bull this weekend after Vitantonio Liuzzi stepped into the race seat, finished fifth fastest.

Takuma Sato finished sixth fastest in the second BAR, with Kimi Raikkonen seventh for McLaren, German Nick Heidfeld eighth for Williams and Alex Wurz, of McLaren, and Mark Webber, of Williams, completing the top 10.

After temperatures of 42 degrees Celsius at the past two races in Malaysia and Bahrain, the temperature of 14 degrees made for a different challenge as drivers went out in the first session of the weekend.

De la Rosa was one of the first cars out and one of the first to set a significant lap time when he posted a time of 1:24,066 to put himself almost two seconds clear of Zonta.

Schumacher moved into second on his first flying run, then stepped up the pace again and moved 0,483 seconds clear of De la Rosa before a final third lap put him 1,208 seconds clear.

Raikkonen then went second with a time just a 10th slower than Schumacher, then De la Rosa shot to the top by a massive 1,646 seconds and the German could not step up to the pace.—Sapa-AFP

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