Alonso makes his mark on US GP Friday

Alonso makes his mark on US GP Friday

Fernando Alonso has not always had the best of times at Indianapolis in the past but the McLaren driver led the way in both Friday practices ahead of this weekend's US Grand Prix. His time of 1:11.925 in the morning session remained the best of...

Fernando Alonso has not always had the best of times at Indianapolis in the past but the McLaren driver led the way in both Friday practices ahead of this weekend's US Grand Prix. His time of 1:11.925 in the morning session remained the best of the day and in the afternoon he was top of the time sheets with a 1:12.156. Teammate Lewis Hamilton was second fastest, a tenth and half behind.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-22.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"The car has been performing strongly at the last couple of races and today in practice, but I am sure that both Ferrari and BMW will be at the front as well," said Alonso. "We completed our normal Friday practice programme looking at tyre evaluation and general set-up work. There is a lot of data to consider overnight, but so far things are looking good for the team."

Hamilton, an Indy debutante, got to know the track pretty quickly. "In the first part of the second session I ran a little wide and did some minor damage to the aerodynamic fences which took a little time for the guys to repair. We have a pretty good idea of where we are going, and it looks like we should be competitive..."

Felipe Massa led the way for Ferrari in third, just shy of three tenths behind Hamilton. The Brazilian spent much of the afternoon session at the top of the list with a 1:12.454 but was overtaken by the McLarens in the last 10 minutes. The second scarlet car of Kimi Raikkonen completed the top four, slightly over four tenths off Alonso's pace.

"The two types of Bridgestone available here offer different performance: the softer one is quicker over the first lap but then it seems to have a more significant drop off while the harder one is the opposite," Massa opined. "We will now analyse the data also trying to predict how the track conditions will develop. All in all, I think we can fight for the top places."

Nick Heidfeld was fifth behind the two top teams to continue BMW Sauber's encouraging performances, although he was well over eight tenths down on the lead McLaren. Tester Sebatian Vettel, standing in for Robert Kubica, was not on his earlier pace and finished 11th fastest. Indianapolis will be Vettel's F1 race debut and BMW has a lot of faith in the youngster's abilities.

David Coulthard put in another solid performance for Red Bull in sixth but Mark Webber slipped down from his top 10 position of the morning to 12th. The Australian stopped in the middle sector midway through the session with a suspected gearbox issue. Sister team Toro Rosso also had mixed fortunes, Tonio Liuzzi a reasonable 13th and Scott Speed some way down the field in 18th.

Nico Rosberg continued his good efforts from the morning with seventh fastest and Alex Wurz was back in the cockpit after sitting out the earlier session while test driver Kazuki Nakajima was on track. Wurz, who scored a podium finish with third in Canada, was 16th overall and about half a second down on Rosberg.

Heikki Kovalainen, another driver who did well in the Montreal chaos, was eighth on the time sheet and teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was 15th. Honda managed to squeeze both drivers into the top 10, Rubens Barrichello ninth and Jenson Button 10th. The top nine were within a second of Alonso and Button only just missed out on that time gap, by less than half a tenth.

Anthony Davidson was the quicker of the Super Aguri pair in 14th and Takuma Sato was 19th. After being on the edge of the top 10 in the morning Toyota slipped back down the ranks, Jarno Trulli 17th and Ralf Schumacher 20th. Spyker bought up the rear with Christijan Albers ahead of Adrian Sutil again, 21st and 22nd respectively.

Ferrari closed the gap on McLaren this afternoon, ousting BMW from the top four, but can the reds or BMW prevent another Silver Arrows front row lock-out in qualifying? Ferrari usually goes well at Indy but so far McLaren looks to be the team to beat. Final top eight classification: Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Couthard, Rosberg, Kovalainen.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Anthony Davidson , Fernando Alonso , Alexander Wurz , Christijan Albers , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Scott Speed , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Robert Kubica , Kazuki Nakajima , Adrian Sutil
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Toro Rosso