F1

Close at the top in Turkish GP last practice

Close at the top in Turkish GP last practice

The final practice session for the Turkish Grand Prix was closely contested at the top, with the first four separated by four tenths of a second. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton got the upper hand with a best time of 1:27.325 and Ferrari's Felipe Massa...

The final practice session for the Turkish Grand Prix was closely contested at the top, with the first four separated by four tenths of a second. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton got the upper hand with a best time of 1:27.325 and Ferrari's Felipe Massa was just four hundredths behind. Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari was third and Fernando Alonso's McLaren fourth.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-22.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The track temperature was around 40 degrees as cars came out for installation laps; as usual there was little early action as most headed back to the pits after a trip around the circuit. Only the Ferraris didn't put in an early appearance and Hamilton's McLaren stopped by the pit exit before he'd even done anything. I was a minor glitch.

The Spykers were first to get to work, Adrian Sutil and Sakon Yamamoto lapping in formation and Sutil setting the better time of 1:32.158. The Toyotas of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli were also back out and Schumacher took over with a 1:29.819. Giancarlo Fisichella's Renault posted third then Trulli went to the top, 1:29.528.

Anthony Davidson's Super Aguri took fifth on his first effort and the Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi and Sebastian Vettel rejoined the track. Takuma Sato's Super Aguri was also out, while Liuzzi and Vettel clocked third and eighth. Schumacher returned to the top, 1:28.984 for half a second up on Trulli.

The Williams of Alex Wurz slotted into second, just fractionally quicker than Trulli, and teammate Nico Rosberg went one better for the top, 1:28.620. Jenson Button's Honda arrived in seventh and Nick Heidfeld was the first BMW Sauber on the time sheet, fourth. Teammate Robert Kubica was a little quicker and took the place off him.

The second Honda of Rubens Barrichello was seventh and Alonso put his McLaren straight to the top on his first flyer, 1:28.005. Heikki Kovalainen's Renault started with 14th then moved up to 12th, while Mark Webber took eighth in the Red Bull. Raikkonen was a lowly 18th initially but teammate Massa took second.

David Coulthard put his Red Bull ninth and Massa was scorching round, fastest sectors in one and two to clock 1:27.867, the best of the weekend so far. Alonso improved his time to just over a tenth off the Ferrari but Massa widened the gap with his next lap, 1:27.366. Half way through and Raikkonen was still near the back and Hamilton hadn't set a time.

Heidfeld in third was just over a second off Massa, then came Rosberg, Schumacher and Trulli. Wurz, Kubica, Coulthard and Button completed the top 10. Hamilton finally woke up and posted second, four tenths down on Massa, but many drivers were back in the pits. Some of the backmarkers were lapping but not changing position much.

Raikkonen was 22nd and over four seconds off the pace after seven laps but looked like he was about to make an effort. He duly did and took the second spot, two tenths off Massa. So it was back to two Ferraris and two McLarens at the top -- the only four in the 1:27 bracket -- with Rosberg up to fifth and Heidfeld sixth.

Hamilton put in a very quick middle sector which elevated him to the top, 1:27.325 and just half a tenth up on Massa. Button got back into the top 10 after being shuffled down the order, ninth, but was dropped one when Kovalainen did likewise and took sixth. Sato bought out the yellow flags when he spun into the gravel.

There were eight minutes left when the track went green again and Rosberg and Heidfeld improved their times but held station, both within a second of Hamilton. There were a lot of cars on track but nobody was really doing much; in the last couple of minutes Wurz moved up to eighth but was demoted by Fisichella and Kubica in quick succession.

There was nothing out of the ordinary for a Saturday morning; it looks like the usual suspects will be fighting for pole and it could be any one of the top four that gets it, although Ferrari perhaps has a slight edge. Final top eight classification: Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso, Rosberg, Heidfeld, Kubica, Fisichella.

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