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Friday....
Giancarlo Fisichella finished 10th to head the Honda-powered foursome in today's free practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. His Jordan Honda team-mate Takuma Sato and BAR's Olivier Panis finished in 13th and 17th places respectively while Jacques Villenueve recorded 19th position.

The 5.821km/3.617mile Suzuka circuit, which has been the home of the Japanese Grand Prix since 1987, is slightly longer than a typical contemporary Grand Prix circuit and provides a challenging end to the Formula One season. Although the circuit has been shortened by 38 metres this year, the layout of the track remains fairly unusual as it doubles back on itself in a distinctive figure of eight configuration.

The drivers were greeted by beautiful weather conditions at Suzuka, the air temperature registering 21 degrees for the start of the morning session. The blue skies became cloudier as the day progressed with the ambient track and air temperatures lowering slightly for the second session.

The Jordan Honda pairing had a fairly straightforward session but this was not the case for the B.A.R Honda drivers, as they were only able to complete 34 laps between them. Fisichella enjoyed a trouble-free day, completing a total of 37 laps and setting a best time of 1m36.744s, which puts him in 10th place overall. Sato covered 45 laps of the Suzuka circuit in front of his home crowd, and managed to keep control of the car when he spun towards the end of the second session. The Japanese driver finished in 13th position overall, setting a best time of 1m37.196s.

At the beginning of the first session Villeneuve lost traction on the exit of Spoon Curve and spun off the track, hitting the wall. Panis slowed to avoid the debris from his team-mate's car and stalled his engine, resulting in both B.A.R Honda drivers watching the rest of the first session from the garage. Panis was able to complete 17 laps in the second session but struggled to find grip and finished the day in 17th place overall, setting a best lap of 1m37.927s. The engineers and mechanics worked quickly to repair the substantial damage on Villeneuve's car but the Canadian only had 15 minutes of track time in the afternoon, recording a best time of 1m38.138s, placing him 19th overall.

BAR Honda garage


Shuhei Nakamoto, Race and Test Team Manager, Honda Racing Development:
"Obviously this isn't an ideal start to the weekend. Jacques and Olivier weren't able to complete as many laps as usual on a Friday. However, Giancarlo and Takuma ran a good number of laps and I'm optimistic for their improved performance throughout the weekend. As for tomorrow, it's crucial that we make maximum use of the morning practice sessions to secure the best balance for qualifying. All four drivers will be using a slighter higher spec engine so we hope we can qualify well in front of our home crowd."

David Richards, BAR Team Principal:
"What can one say about a weekend that starts like this? It can only get better. The fact that neither driver got much running clearly reflects in the times and I'm quite confident that, given a clear run tomorrow morning, things will improve significantly."

Giancarlo Fisichella (Position 10th):
"Today was quite good and I am in the top ten, which is our target for tomorrow. The car looks okay, although we have got some adjustments to make on the set-up. But we know the direction so I'm confident about our chances in qualifying."

Takuma Sato (Position 13th)
"Not bad. It's always nice to have a run in front of a big crowd and the massive support here is very good. The car is working okay but Suzuka is so technically challenging for the tyres and chassis set-up, it's difficult to get the balance. We found a decent set-up today and we'll carry on the work tomorrow."

Olivier Panis (Position 17th):
"I lost a lot of time in the morning session, unfortunately due to my mistake. I slowed down to pick my way around the debris from Jacques' car and to check he wasn't hurt. I lost concentration and stalled the car so I'm sorry for the team because of that. I can't believe it! We tried many different things this afternoon and we worked towards the race configuration but we were struggling for grip and we're certainly not quick enough. I feel that we still have a lot of potential to improve the car so we have a lot of work to do tonight to get the best from the package."

Jacques Villeneuve (Position 19th):
"The car seemed to lose traction on the exit from Spoon Curve and I hit the kerb, lost control then spun the car into the barrier. It was quite a heavy impact but I'm fine. The car was quite badly damaged though so the guys did a fantastic job to get it ready in time to get any more running today. Having said that, I only managed 4 timed laps and 11 laps in total so we've done very little work on our race set-up. The engineers did a lot of work during the downtime while the car was being repaired using Olivier's data but we're too slow and we have a lot of catching up to do. We have a lot of work ahead of us this evening."


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  Congratulations to Sato!
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