Friday, June 20, 2008

Massa on top free practice 1 French GP.



The 90 minutes of running this morning at Magny Cours saw Felipe Massa dominate the session for Ferrari, lapping the 4.411km circuit a cool seven-tenths of a second clear of his nearest rival.

Sunny skies greeted the 20 runners for the start of the 90 minute free practice session and while Ferrari sat out the opening 30 minutes of running, Massa vaulted to the top of the timesheets on his first stint on the harder medium compound Bridgestone tyre and would improve throughout the session as the clouds moved in. The Brazilian eventually set a best time of 1:15.306s.

Lewis Hamilton set the second fastest time in his McLaren Mercedes with a best lap of 1:16.002s. Both Hamilton and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen struggled for grip throughout the session with Hamilton frequently locking his front left wheel under braking. However, Hamilton remained on the worn set of tyres and was unable to respond to Massa’s gains.

Kovalainen set the third fastest time and survived a lurid trip into the gravel after losing the rear end of his MP4-23 in the ultra-fast Estoril right hander. Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest in the second Ferrari, just under eight-tenths off the flying Massa.

Canadian Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica was in his customary fifth position in the leading BMW Sauber with team-mate Nick Heidfeld ninth fastest. Fernando Alonso was comfortably sixth fastest but was forced to pull off in the final minutes of the session as his Renault V8 failed in dramatic fashion.

However, being free practice, there will be no grid position penalty for the former champion.

Jarno Trulli was firmly in the top ten in his Toyota and despite a spin exiting the Adelaide hairpin late in the session, managed the seventh fastest time just ahead of the impressive Sebastian Vettel in the leading Toro Rosso Ferrari. With Heidfeld ninth, Timo Glock rounded out the top ten in the second Toyota.

Nelson Piquet set the 11th best time in the second Renault seventh-tenths of a second behind team-mate Alonso while the Red Bull Renault duo of David Coulthard and Mark Webber proved closely matched in 12th and 13th.

It was not a particularly encouraging start to the weekend at Williams Toyota with Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima 14th and 17th. Rubens Barrichello led the way again at Honda with the 15th best time ahead of Sebastien Bourdais in the second Toro Rosso, Nakajima and Jenson Button in the second Honda.

Giancarlo Fisichella was 19th in his Force India Ferrari while team-mate Adrian Sutil was forced to miss the final third of the session for an as yet unknown reason. Sutil was 20th and slowest.

Earl ALEXANDER
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