Friday, 20 June 2008

French Grand Prix: Free Practice 2

Fernando Alonso sprung something of a surprise in Friday's second free practice session for the French Grand Prix by edging out the Ferraris to take top spot. It was more of an eventful session this time out, with several drivers taking high speed trips through the kitty-litter. Thankfully nobody hit anything solid at the end of it, but it was evidence that the drivers are really pushing to find the absolute limits of grip out there.

Again the session was run under blue skies and glorious sunshine with no sign of the thunderstorms that had threatened to cast a shadow over proceedings. Thankfully there was far more running in the early part of the session than in first practice.

As previously mentioned, there were several drivers pushing beyond the limits of gri[ in this session. The outside of turn 7 was proving particularly popular, although these days it's all astroturf and tarmac in the run off area so there is little chance of a major incident there. Lewis Hamilton was the first driver to sample the gravel on the outside of the high speed Estoril corner, and he wasn't to be the last. Aside from a chipped front wing and a bruised ego there was no major repercussions for Hamilton.

Fisichella and Piquet both managed to go too hot into the second to last corner and ended up in the gravel, but they also managed to avoid hitting anything. The man who came closest to a serious incident was Felipe Massa in the dying moments of the session. He ran wide on the exit of Estoril and kept his foot in as he bounced across the gravel. He came within about a foot of clipping the tyre barrier at very high speed.

Massa couldn't quite repeat his excellent showing from earlier in the day and ended the session in second place behind Alonso. Kimi Raikkonen was in close attendance in third place with Hamilton in fourth. Perhaps an even bigger surprise than Alonso in first place was Sebastien Vettel in fifth. He beat the likes of Robert Kubica and Heikki Kovalainen on pace in yet another superb showing for the young German.

It was a good day in general for Toro Rosso with Bourdais putting in a good showing in 13th place too. They look as though they are really getting their act together and could well start pressing their big brothers Red Bull in terms of pace. They certainly seem to have left behind the likes of Honda, who are again struggling badly. After what seemed like a mini recovery after their appalling pre-season they seem to have gone backwards and are now battling with the Force Indias at the very bottom of the time sheets!

But the headlines belong to Fernando Alonso who looks to have found some real pace here. It will make it all the more galling for him that he had that problem right at the end of first practice, which looks like it will cost him places on the grid. He looks as racey as ever though, and was certainly the most spectacular driver through the tricky final chicane. Several times he was seen airborne across the bumpy kerbs, and then using armfuls of opposite lock to keep the Renault out of the barriers. Normally that sort of driving doesn't pay dividends in terms of lap times, but Alonso seems to have found a way to make it work for him!

Free Practice Two Times

01 F. Alonso Renault 1:15.778 37 laps
02 F. Massa Ferrari 1:15.854 24 laps
03 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:15.999 42 laps
04 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:16.232 28 laps
05 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:16.298 42 laps
06 R. Kubica BMW 1:16.317 35 laps
07 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:16.340 36 laps
08 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:16.458 43 laps
09 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:16.543 39 laps
10 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:16.572 36 laps
11 N. Rosberg Williams 1:16.682 42 laps
12 J. Trulli Toyota 1:16.743 43 laps
13 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:16.758 42 laps
14 K. Nakajima Williams 1:17.002 32 laps
15 T. Glock Toyota 1:17.092 39 laps
16 M. Webber Red Bull 1:17.106 38 laps
17 J. Button Honda 1:17.244 37 laps
18 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:17.394 42 laps
19 R. Barrichello Honda 1:17.591 27 laps
20 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:17.868 33 laps

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