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Newz Forum: AUTO: Ferraris untroubled by desert sand in Bahrain

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posted on Apr, 4 2004 @ 01:24 PM
SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) -- The desert sand and dust caused problems for some teams during Friday's practice for the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix, but not the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.

New track, same outcome.

Schumacher, a six-time series champion, was fastest in the first practice. His teammate was best in the second, putting them in perfect position for Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race.

"Coming off line a little bit there are all these little stones, sharp edges of the tarmac," Schumacher said. "Anytime we go a little bit off line we can have a spin or whatever."

Schumacher won the season's first two races, in Australia and Malaysia. A victory on the $150 million Bahrain circuit could mark the beginnings of another Ferrari landslide.

Schumacher leads the standings with 20 points followed by Barrichello (13), Juan Pablo Montoya of Williams-BMW (12), Jenson Button of BAR-Honda (9) and Fernando Alonso of Renault (8).

This is the first Formula One race in an Arab country since 1958 in Morocco. Security is reported to have been stepped up at a track 600 miles from Baghdad.

Sunday's podium celebration will feature "warrd" instead of champagne. The nonalcoholic carbonated drink is made from locally grown fruit mixed with rose water.

The crowd will be distinctive -- men in white flowing robes and women wearing the Islamic headscarf (hijab). Many women working at the track's reception areas are sporting Gulf costumes -- dresses called "Thoub Nashil" in red, yellow, gold and silver with golden hair braids.

"We are trying to promote our kingdom, and there is no better way to do it than the traditional way," said Sheik Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, chairman of the circuit.

Despite the uncertainties of the course, average times were about usual for F1 -- in the 130 mph range. Afternoon temperatures reached 129 degrees and several cars had problems.

Schumacher was timed in 1 minute, 32.158 seconds on the 3.4-mile course in the morning -- the first time Formula One cars ran officially on the track.

In the second session, Barrichello topped his teammate, going 1:31.450. Montoya was second at 1:31.451, just 0.001 seconds behind Barrichello. Anthony Davidson, BAR-Honda's test driver, was third in both sessions. Schumacher was fourth in the second session.

The biggest loser was McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn's engine caught fire eight minutes into the second session.

Under new rules this season, he will be penalized 10 places on the starting grid for using a second backup engine. This marks the first time the new rule will be applied.

Raikkonen was runner-up to Schumacher last year, losing the title by two points. He has yet to finish this season, dropping out with engine and transmission problems.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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