F1

Kovalainen tops Turkey practice

Kovalainen tops Turkey practice

And so to Turkey, the dual-continent country that stands as metaphor for the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship: Only two guys win. Since its introduction as an F1 venue in 2005, when Kimi Raikkonen (for McLaren) won, followed every year ...

And so to Turkey, the dual-continent country that stands as metaphor for the 2009 FIA Formula One World Championship: Only two guys win.

Since its introduction as an F1 venue in 2005, when Kimi Raikkonen (for McLaren) won, followed every year since by Felipe Massa (Ferarri) -- and all from pole -- the Istanbul Park autodrome has gone from host to multiple races to just this one, meaning drivers spent much of Friday's two 90-minute practice sessions shuffling dust off the course -- or giving new meaning to the term taking the car out for a spin. Well, dusty track and Bridgestone's softer of two tire options. The harder compound provided better grip. Times stayed within two seconds throughout the field.

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren Mercedes.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The nature of practice in a season without testing means not so much can be read into times. But to keep chronographs busy, Heikki Kovalainen, in danger of turning McLaren Mercedes into a two-tier team, topped timesheets with a lap of 1 minute, 28.841 seconds. The Finn was beneficiary, perhaps, of yet another new front wing and a new floor for the MP4-24. Nipping at his numbers was Renault's Fernando Alonso, six-thousandths of a second behind, and among the spinners. The Spaniard's R29 was sans kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) . Robert Kubica, in a BMW Sauber also sans KERS, came third quick in an F1.09 sporting a new rear diffuser. The effort marked the Pole's best practice result this season.

Kazuki Nakajima posted fourth-quick time for Williams F1. And spun. He was followed by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who sat out much of his practice time with work to the RB5 then an on-course shutdown -- engine vibration -- after he clipped a curb. The German's quick lap time stood up despite his sitting out the final hour of the second session, that is, on three laps' work.

Jarno Trulli set Toyota's best time. Nico Rosberg, fastest in the morning session, followed to give Williams F1 the best team showing. Rubens Barrichello provided the top Brawn GP time as the championship leaders added a new front wing, a modified rear suspension and other aero bits. Mark Webber was ninth for Red Bull, who added a new rear diffuser in Monaco, with Nelson Piquet rounding out the top 10 for Renault.

Thereafter followed such luminaries as race title defender Massa -- who spun off, driving championship leader Jenson Button for Brawn GP, World Drivers Champion Lewis Hamilton for McLaren Mercedes -- who spun twice, Timo Glock for Toyota, Raikkonen for Ferrari, and Nick Heidfeld for BMW Sauber. Stacked at the bottom of time charts were the aerodynamically adjusted Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella, and the Scuderia Toro Rossos of Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastien Buemi.

Saturday qualifying sets the field for 58 laps of the 3.3-mile course in Sunday's race.

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