Friday, 20 June 2008

French Grand Prix: Free Practice 1

Felipe Massa started his French GP weekend off in perfect style by comfortably setting the fastest time here in first practice. He led Lewis Hamilton by a full 7 tenths of a second come the end of the session, with Kovalainen, Raikkonen and Kubica trailing even further in his wake. It was a fairly uneventful session in terms of on track incident, but many drivers complained of struggling to find grip on the 'green' track. Nobody was as frustrated as Fernando Alonso however, as he ended the session prematurely in smokey fashion.

With the skies looking relatively clear and the sun shining it seems to be a perfect day for burning some hydrocarbons around a racing track, but few drivers managed to get fully to grips with the circuit. Whether it is a problem with the track itself, or with the tyres that Bridgestone have brought to France remains to be seen, but there have been plenty of lock ups and slides, and a few drivers complaining of graining on their tyres.

For the first 25 minutes of the session literally nobody set a single time! Most drivers had a quick installation lap, but nothing serious. Eventually things got going, and one of the early men to impress was Sebastien Vettel. This kid really does have rare pace and talent. Given a few years' development and a good car he really could become a superstar.

Eventually it became the expected battle between Ferrari and McLaren for the top spots. McLaren looked the strongest early on, but toward the end of the session Felipe Massa really came to the fore. By the end of the session he was the only man in the 1.15s, and comfortably so at that. The McLarens looked decent throughout, but didn't have the outright pace to match Massa.

After a spin by Trulli towards the end, the session ended in rather dramatic fashion. Fernando Alonso was forced to stop out on track with his Renault gushing out huge plumes of smoke. It looked suspiciously like an engine failure, and will surely mean a ten place penalty for him for the race on Sunday. Bad news for Alonso and the partisan Renault fans, and a real shame as he was looking decent in terms of pace throughout the session.

Free Practice 1 Times

01 F. Massa Ferrari 1:15.306 22 laps
02 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:16.002 22 laps
03 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:16.055 20 laps
04 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:16.073 21 laps
05 R. Kubica BMW 1:16.377 19 laps
06 F. Alonso Renault 1:16.400 23 laps
07 J. Trulli Toyota 1:16.758 32 laps
08 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:16.838 27 laps
09 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:16.870 21 laps
10 T. Glock Toyota 1:16.886 31 laps
11 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:17.063 31 laps
12 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:17.234 21 laps
13 M. Webber Red Bull 1:17.269 22 laps
14 N. Rosberg Williams 1:17.394 30 laps
15 R. Barrichello Honda 1:17.491 25 laps
16 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:17.683 27 laps
17 K. Nakajima Williams 1:17.696 25 laps
18 J. Button Honda 1:17.928 21 laps
19 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:18.072 27 laps
20 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:18.673 13 laps

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