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Last Updated: Friday, 4 March, 2005, 08:20 GMT
McLaren set the pace in Australia
Kimi Raikkonen
Raikkonen looked in good form at the start of the new season
McLaren came to the fore as the new Formula One season got under way on Friday with two practice sessions for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

Test driver Pedro de la Rosa led the way with his lap of one minute 25.376 seconds, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen just 0.3secs behind.

Williams' Nick Heidfeld finished in third, with defending world champion Michael Schumacher back in fourth.

Juan Pablo Montoya completed a good day for McLaren with fifth place.

Britain's Jenson Button was back in eighth in his BAR, and fellow Brit David Coulthard was 12th as the action began to hot up after a low-key first session.

"It's still difficult to know where we are in respect to the other teams, but I think our sessions went to plan and everything seemed to run smoothly," said Button.

New Formula One rules had a major impact ahead of the first race of the new season.

It's always a nice moment to be back on track for the start of a new season
Michael Schumacher

Guidelines requiring engines to last two whole Grands Prix race weekends and just one set of tyres to be used for qualifying and the race seem to have led to some teams minimising the number of laps their cars run in practice.

"Ideally we'd be doing 20-lap runs to make a judgement on the tyres but that's not possible now with the new engine rules," said Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn.

"We've had to economise a little on the engine mileage but we've done enough to make a judgement that we'll be happy with."

Schumacher said: "It's always a nice moment to be back on track for the start of a new season.

"I am quite happy with the first day.

"We nearly completed our full programme although I had a small electrical problem in the morning which meant I had to pit earlier than expected."

Teams face draconian penalties if they need to fit a new engine, with a driver who needs a replacement during practice at a Grand Prix being relegated 10 places on the grid.

But if the change takes place after first qualifying, the driver will start from the back.

Meanwhile, Minardi took legal action after a stewards' ruling saw them refused permission to take part and will start Saturday's first qualifying session.

"We will be running all day tomorrow and then we'll have to wait and see what happens," said team boss Paul Stoddart.

Red Bull test driver Vitantonio Liuzzi - who set the fastest time in the first session - did not enjoy a happy return to the track and slid into the gravel after just 11 minutes.

De la Rosa survived a minor collision with Jordan test driver Robert Doornbos, with both cars avoiding any damage.

"On one of my laps during a long run in the second session one of the Jordans and me touched and I ended up in the gravel," said de la Rosa.

"But there was no damage so I was able to carry on."

Toyota's Ralf Schumacher and Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella also came to grief with spins.

In the first session, Liuzzi's fastest time of one minute 25.967 saw him finish ahead of fellow test drivers - de la Rosa and Toyota's Ricardo Zonta.

Positions after second practice:

1 Pedro de la Rosa (Spa) McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.376
2 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.676
3 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) Williams-BMW 1:25.940
4 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1:26.081
5 Juan Pablo Montoya (Col) McLaren-Mercedes 1:26.227
6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Sauber-Petronas 1:26.357
7 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1:26.562
8 Jenson Button (GB) BAR-Honda 1:26.611
9 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Ferrari 1:26.639
10 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault 1:26.667
11 Ricardo Zonta (Bra) Toyota 1:26.808
12 David Coulthard (GB) Red Bull Racing 1:27.017
13 Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:27.162
14 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:27.195
15 Mark Webber (Aus) Williams-BMW 1:27.329
16 Jacques Villeneuve (Can) Sauber Petronas 1:27.513
17 Christian Klien (Aut) Red Bull Racing 1:27.544
18 Takuma Sato (Jpn) BAR-Honda 1:27.891
19 Narain Karthikeyan (Ind) Jordan 1:28.168
20 Robert Doornbos (Ned) Jordan 1:28.620
21 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Red Bull Racing 1:28.926
22 Tiago Monteiro (Por) Jordan 1:29.67123
23 Patrick Freisacher (Aut) Minardi no time
24 Christijan Albers (Ned) Minardi no time

Positions after first practice:

1 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Red Bull 1min 25.967secs
2 Pedro de la Rosa (Spa) McLaren + 0.513secs
3 Ricardo Zonta (Bra) Toyota + 1.298
4 Juan Pablo Montoya (Col) McLaren + 1.458
5 David Coulthard (GB) Red Bull + 1.606
6 Felipe Massa (Bra) Sauber + 2.004
7 Mark Webber (Aus) Williams + 2.302
8 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota + 2.399
9 Jenson Button (GB) BAR + 2.665
10 Christian Klien (Aut) Red Bull + 2.867
11 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) Williams + 3.205
12 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Ferrari + 3.260
13 Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota + 3.318
14 Jacques Villeneuve (Can) Sauber + 3.365
15 Robert Doornbos (Ned) Jordan + 3.403
16 Takuma Sato (Jpn) BAR + 5.397
17 Tiago Monteiro (Por) Jordan + 6.381
18 Narain Karthikeyan (Ind) Jordan + 12.208
19 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren no time
20 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari no time
21 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault no time
22 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault no time
23 Patrick Freisacher (Aut) Minardi no time
24 Christijan Albers (Ned) Minardi no time

Minardi to launch F1 legal action
04 Mar 05 |  Formula One
Williams 'fat' digs anger Montoya
02 Mar 05 |  Formula One
Ferrari stand firm in Minardi row
02 Mar 05 |  Formula One
Schumacher cool on Aussie chances
02 Mar 05 |  Formula One
Toyota expect points in Australia
01 Mar 05 |  Formula One
Fisichella eyes Melbourne victory
28 Feb 05 |  Formula One
Webber prepared for tough start
27 Feb 05 |  Formula One
Button predicts Ferrari decline
25 Feb 05 |  Formula One
Coulthard 'will spring surprise'
23 Feb 05 |  Formula One


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