Renault has been muttering about Silverstone not being the best of tracks for them but it didn't deter Fernando Alonso from setting the fastest time in the last practice session for the British Grand Prix. The Spaniard clocked 1:20.077 but was...
Renault has been muttering about Silverstone not being the best of tracks for them but it didn't deter Fernando Alonso from setting the fastest time in the last practice session for the British Grand Prix. The Spaniard clocked 1:20.077 but was only five hundredths up on McLaren's Juan Pablo Montoya. Toyota's Jarno Trulli was third, while Kimi Raikkonen was fastest in the earlier session.
The conditions were overcast and humid as Minardi's Patrick Friesacher and Christijan Albers, along with Jordan's Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan, went out for installation laps. The McLarens of Raikkonen and Montoya followed on shortly afterwards but nobody was in a great hurry to do anything much.
After 15 minutes Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve emerged and put up a time, 1:27.502, followed by Friesacher into second. Sauber has some new parts today which were delayed in transit on Friday. Villeneuve dropped his time to 1:25.726 over his next couple of laps and Fernando Alonso was the first of the front runners to appear.
The Renault man clocked 1:23.061, over two and a half seconds up on Villeneuve. He lowered it to 1:21.576 on his next lap, which seemed to remind everyone else what they were there for. Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari arrived in second, followed by the Sauber of Felipe Massa into third, although both were well over two seconds off Alonso.
Monteiro clocked sixth and Michael Schumacher put his Ferrari seventh, while Takuma Sato's BAR took the second spot. Giancarlo Fisichella then moved into second, seven and a half tenths down on teammate Alonso, and Michael took third. Barrichello slotted into fourth and Massa into fifth after being shuffled down in the burst of activity.
Sato took the position off Massa and Albers posted ninth, one behind teammate Friesacher. Massa improved to fourth ahead of Barrichello and Monteiro went up to seventh ahead of Villeneuve. Albers moved in front of Friesacher and Sato climbed to fourth, but still only Michael and Fisichella were within a second of Alonso.
Karthikeyan and the Jordan of Ralf Schumacher arrived in tandem in eighth and seventh respectively and the Red Bull of Christian Klien split the Minardis in 12th. Nick Heidfeld was the first Williams to set a time, eighth, and Raikkonen posted a lowly 14th. Albers improved to 13th and Klien to eighth, followed by Villeneuve into ninth.
David Coulthard's Red Bull was next to take the eighth spot and BAR's Jenson Button appeared in 13th. Massa, who had been shunted down the order again, climbed to fifth and Raikkonen shot up to second, just one thousandth behind Alonso. Klien improved to sixth, Sato to fifth, and Button to eighth.
Trulli posted ninth and Montoya arrived in fourth, then Raikkonen went to the top, 1:20.975 for four tenths up on Alonso. Button moved into third and the second Williams of Mark Webber posted 16th. Monteiro led the Jordans and Minardis in 17th and Button improved his time but stayed third.
Massa, again moving back up the order, clocked seventh and that was the end of the burst of activity and the close of the session. McLaren, Renault and BAR looked on the pace but its early days just yet. Raikkonen retained his advantage over Alonso, with Button in third just about a second off the lead McLaren.
The start of the second session was almost as slow as the first. Monteiro and Raikkonen ventured out after five minutes, followed by Karthikeyan and Trulli, and Monteiro posted a sedate 1:27.910. Karthikeyan took over with 1:25.361, then Trulli clocked 1:23.759.
Raikkonen came to halt in the middle sector before setting a time -- it turned out to be an engine problem and he will again get the grid demotion penalty for changing engine. A big blow for Kimi's race hopes.
Ralf took third and Montoya was next to the top, 1:22.087, while Albers and Friesacher joined in sixth and seventh. Trulli demoted Montoya with a 1:21.763 and Alonso posted third on his first effort. Sato took fifth and Trulli returned to the top, 1:21.556 for half a second up on Montoya. Alonso clocked fastest sectors across the board for 1:21.252.
Button joined in sixth and Webber in eighth and Alonso belted out another flyer, 1:20.746. Webber climbed to sixth and teammate Heidfeld took the eighth spot, while Villeneuve appeared in 11th. Barrichello claimed sixth and Button improved to fifth, then Michael clocked third on his first flyer.
The Ferrari improved to second on the next lap, six tenths off Alonso. Massa arrived in 10th and Fisichella had a very fast middle sector to take second, two tenths down on teammate Alonso. He closed the gap again to a tenth on his next effort -- Renault is looking good seeing as Silverstone is a track supposedly not suited to the car.
Montoya and Alonso lapped in formation, 1:20.128 for the McLaren and 1:20.077 for the Renault, half a tenth between them, to leave Fisichella nearly eight tenths astray. Further down the pack the Williams, Red Bull and Sauber drivers were squabbling at the edge of the top ten, and Karthikeyan made a good effort to get his Jordan up to 11th.
Klien made a break and moved his Red Bull up to sixth, while Button improved to third. Coulthard came to a halt in the middle sector but teammate Klien was having a better time of things and improved to fifth. Webber moved up to 10th and Michael to sixth, then there was a quiet spell until some minor activity at the end.
Monteiro improved to ninth, which may not be everyone's idea of a good lap but for a Jordan it was pretty remarkable. Teammate Karthikeyan was 14th, so a good effort from Jordan at that point, although Monteiro will get the demotion penalty for an engine change yesterday. Trulli took over third, narrowing the gap to Alonso and Montoya to just under four tenths.
Ralf climbed to fourth, Villeneuve to ninth and Michael to seventh, then Klien moved back up the order to eighth, only to be demoted by Webber. Alonso and Montoya held station at the top and at the end of the session the top ten was covered by a second, so quite a close field. Again, McLaren and Renault looked strong but another engine failure for Raikkonen is a concern.
Toyota also looked good this morning, and BAR was not too far off. Ferrari was reasonable but not on the pace of the front runners, and Williams seemed improved with both cars in the top ten. Although Coulthard had a problem Red Bull seems quite good round Silverstone and Sauber looked fairly useful.
It would seem that the fight for pole in this afternoon's qualifying will be between McLaren and Renault. The former is undoubtedly good here but the latter is not exactly off the pace, despite playing down its chances all week. However, others can't be counted out. Final top eight classification: Alonso, Montoya, Trulli, R. Schumacher, Button, Fisichella, M. Schumacher, Webber.