Friday, 5 September 2008

Belgian Grand Prix: Friday Practice Sessions

The first practice session of the Belgian GP weekend was run under dry but overcast skies at Spa-Francorchamps, and gave the F1 teams and fans a good glimpse of the genuine pace of some of the title contenders. As expected, it was Ferrari who led the way with a slight advantage over McLaren. And as with recent races it was Felipe Massa who had the edge over Kimi Raikkonen in the red cars, and Lewis Hamilton who had the edge over Heikki Kovalainen in the silver cars.

The session was fairly plain sailing for everyone with no major incidents on track. Behind the top two teams the best of the rest were Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, putting any fears about the Renault engine's reported lack of ponies to one side. It was also a good session for Toro Rosso who are enjoying a great few weeks, with the two Sebastiens 7th and 8th. Bourdais though did end the session with a broken car after it stopped out on track with a mystery fault.

It was a truly pitiful display from the Honda team who ended up last and second last. It really is amazing that a team with such massive funding can end a trouble free session over 3 seconds off the leaders' pace. I hope for their sake that they have just given up on this season and are just pouring all their resources into their 2009 challenger.

Session two included much more fun and games. The classic Ardenne weather materialized half an hour into the session, making the conditions highly treacherous as Mark Webber found to his cost. He was the first of the day's casualties as he put his Red Bull into the barriers at Beau Rivage, ending his session. After the heavy showers stopped the drivers started to venture out on track to get some valuable track time under their belts.

If this really is a make or break race for Kimi Raikkonen as some have speculated, he could have done without stuffing his Ferrari backwards into the tyre wall at Turn 9. He limped back to the pits, but minus his rear wing, bringing his Friday to a close earlier than planned. He wasn't the only driver having difficulties in the slippery conditions though, as Giancarlo Fisichella spun his Force India into the barriers quite spectacularly, bringing out a red flag. After the track re-opened it wasn't long before more drivers ended up struggling. Nelson Piquet managed to do a perfect imitation of Raikkonen's earlier shunt, becoming the fourth driver to go for an early shower.

As the session drew towards a close it was Felipe Massa who was again looking the class of the field. However, the form book was turned on its head in the final moments as Fernando Alonso put in a stellar lap to go P1; a great way to bounce back after the massive disappointment of his Valencia weekend.After the chequered flag dropped there was still some drama as Robert Kubica's car broke down while he attempted a practice start, rounding off what was a pretty mediocre session all round for the BMW team.

Going into tomorrow's qualifying it certainly looks as though Felipe Massa's Ferrari is the car to beat, although with more rain predicted for throughout the day tomorrow who knows what kind of result the session may throw up...

Practice One Times

01 F. Massa Ferrari 1:47.284 25 laps
02 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:47.623 25 laps
03 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:47.878 27 laps
04 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:47.932 24 laps
05 F. Alonso Renault 1:48.104 25 laps
06 M. Webber Red Bull 1:48.428 28 laps
07 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:48.557 30 laps
08 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:48.958 24 laps
09 T. Glock Toyota 1:48.997 26 laps
10 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:49.068 24 laps
11 R. Kubica BMW 1:49.139 25 laps
12 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:49.185 26 laps
13 N. Rosberg Williams 1:49.611 30 laps
14 J. Trulli Toyota 1:49.625 14 laps
15 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:49.849 18 laps
16 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:49.986 27 laps
17 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:50.117 19 laps
18 K. Nakajima Williams 1:50.125 30 laps
19 J. Button Honda 1:50.464 24 laps
20 R. Barrichello Honda 1:50.905 25 laps

Practice Two Times

01 F. Alonso Renault 1:48.454 21 laps
2 F. Massa Ferrari 1:48.504 16 laps
3 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:48.740 19 laps
4 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:48.805 17 laps
5 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:49.328 10 laps
6 N. Rosberg Williams 1:49.405 17 laps
7 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:49.427 29 laps
8 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:49.585 22 laps
9 J. Trulli Toyota 1:49.715 23 laps
10 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:49.725 22 laps
11 R. Kubica BMW 1:49.875 22 laps
12 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:49.922 20 laps
13 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:49.948 20 laps
14 T. Glock Toyota 1:50.281 24 laps
15 K. Nakajima Williams 1:50.364 20 laps
16 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:50.740 11 laps
17 J. Button Honda 1:50.925 19 laps
18 R. Barrichello Honda 1:51.238 22 laps
19 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:51.334 19 laps
20 M. Webber Red Bull 1:51.640 7 laps

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