The team headed to Silverstone with confidence. It is a circuit both drivers know well, of course, with Mika Salo dominating an F3 race here in the early nineties, while team mate Allan McNish turned in one of his best drives to win the International Trophy here in Formula 3000.
But alas, it was an unhappy day for both men, Salo especially. The Finn managed just one lap in the opening session before stomach pains prevented him from further driving.
Salo is staying at the circuit in his own motorhome and was unable to say what is causing his discomfort. Team doctor Riccardo Ceccarelli examined Salo this morning and diagnosed a stomach infection. He has treated Salo and is confident that the Finn will be able to drive tomorrow.
McNish, meanwhile, finished bottom of the time sheets, 19th, with a lap in 1m38.477s. Neither Salo nor the two Orange Arrows cars of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Enrique Bernoldi recorded a time.
Track conditions changed constantly throughout the day and McNish said: "The grip and balance levels were very unpredictable. In the first session I had a lot of understeer, which we managed to cure, but that switched to oversteer in the second session. Getting a time today was all about being out on the right tyre at the right time, when the track was at its driest. But it's only Friday and nothing too much should be read into the lap times."
Team Manager, Ange Pasquali added: "It was a pity that Mika could do no running today but the team doctor explained that it is better for him to rest today in order to be fully fit for practice and qualifying tomorrow. Unfortunately we could only run with one car today and we struggled in the wet conditions. It is a similar difficulty to the one we had in Imola and we have not had enough wet testing since then to find a cure."
At the front of the field it was Nürburgring victor Rubens Barrichello who set the pace, with a lap in 1m31.457s, ahead of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team mate Michael Schumacher, who lost most of the first session of practice when he spun on his first lap. Giancarlo Fisichella was third quickest for DHL Jordan Honda, with Japanese driver Takuma Sato fifth in the sister car as Juan Pablo Montoya's BMW Williams F1 Team entry split the yellow cars. Jacques Villeneuve completed the top six for Lucky Strike British American Racing Honda.
The forecast is for unsettled weather throughout the British Grand Prix weekend, with the first wet race of the season looking like a strong possibility. The team is hoping that Salo will be fit enough to drive in Saturday's practice and qualifying sessions but, if not, they have the option of substituting young Australian reserve driver Ryan Briscoe, who is at Silverstone for the F3000 race in any case.
British Grand Prix - Free Practice results
Pos. Driver Team Time
1 Barrichello Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro 1.31.457
2 M Schumacher Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro 1.31.881
3 Fisichella DHL Jordan Honda 1.33.434
4 Montoya BMW WilliamsF1 Team 1.33.842
5 Sato DHL Jordan Honda 1.33.901
6 Villeneuve Lucky Strike BAR Honda 1.34.373
7 Raikkonen West McLaren Mercedes 1.34.473
8 Massa Sauber Petronas 1.34.676
9 Button Mild Seven Renault F1 Team 1.34.744
10 Heidfeld Sauber Petronas 1.34.752
11 R Schumacher BMW WilliamsF1 Team 1.34.766
12 Coulthard West McLaren Mercedes 1.35.170
13 De La Rosa Jaguar Racing 1.35.324
14 Panis Lucky Strike BAR Honda 1.35.534
15 Irvine Jaguar Racing 1.35.682
16 Trulli Mild Seven Renault F1 Team 1.36.244
17 Webber KL Minardi Asiatech 1.37.835
18 Yoong KL Minardi Asiatech 1.37.997
19 McNish Panasonic Toyota Racing 1.38.477