F1

Massa fastest on Australian GP Friday

Massa fastest on Australian GP Friday

The second free practice for the Australian Grand Prix was a slightly less damp affair and at the end of it Ferrari's Felipe Massa was the fastest man of the day. The Brazilian clocked 1:27.353, just under two seconds quicker than McLaren's...

The second free practice for the Australian Grand Prix was a slightly less damp affair and at the end of it Ferrari's Felipe Massa was the fastest man of the day. The Brazilian clocked 1:27.353, just under two seconds quicker than McLaren's Fernando Alonso in the morning. Kimi Raikkonen was second, four tenths off teammate Massa, and the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton was third.

Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari.
Photo by xpb.cc.

There were a few off track moments in the slippery conditions but again the track was not officially declared wet. In the dying moments Raikkonen was on an even faster lap than Massa but didn't follow it through after a very quick first sector. There were no car problems for the Ferrari pair, although Raikkonen had a bit of a moment at the last corner early on.

"It was a good day," said Massa. "We did a good job of comparing the two types of dry weather tyre and this morning we also got the opportunity to run in the wet, which led us to see that the balance of the F2007 is pretty good. This was a positive start to the weekend, but of course what counts is tomorrow's qualifying and most of all, Sunday's race."

Raikkonen's day was a little disrupted. "We worked mainly on comparing the two types of tyre that we have, but I was a bit unlucky with the traffic and the red flag, which affected our programme," said the Finn. "In any case, the car seems to be well balanced at this track and we managed to pick up a good base line of data to analyse today for qualifying and for the race."

Hamilton outdid Alonso by a little less than a couple of tenths and Alonso, seventh, was another who had a wobble, a trip over the grass at turn 12 but he managed to keep it together. A competitive start for Hamilton but reportedly the rookie thinks Saturday qualifying will be a big test. However, so far so good for the newcomer.

"The track is good particularly as I love street circuits and the whole atmosphere is amazing," Hamilton said. "Back at the McLaren Technology Centre we have done a lot of simulation work to prepare me for this weekend but it was good to actually drive it for real. The car feels good and the two sessions today were really useful."

Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella posted fourth quickest but came to a halt on track in the last few minutes. It was not a good session for Renault as Heikki Kovalainen had already stopped on the circuit about 20 minutes before. The Finn ended up with the 18th fastest time and the team is investigating fuel pressure problems on both cars.

Nick Heidfeld spent much of the session in the higher ranks and his BMW Sauber was fifth fastest at the end. Teammate Robert Kubica took over from tester Sebastian Vettel, who was in the cockpit in the morning. Kubica had a trip across the gravel but no harm was done and he clocked ninth on the time sheet overall.

Williams also looked fairly good; Alex Wurz was sixth fastest and after test driver Kazuki Nakajima was on duty in the morning, Nico Rosberg was behind the wheel this session and was eighth. Less than a tenth separated the pair and Williams appeared competitive with both cars in the top 10.

Red Bull's David Coulthard was 10th fastest and Mark Webber was 17th, hampered late on by a transmission problem. Super Aguri put in a good show, Anthony Davidson 11th and Takuma Sato 13th. There are still mutterings about the legality of the Super Aguri cars, and those of Toro Rosso, but so far no action has been taken.

Toyota improved from the morning session and had Jarno Trulli 12th and Ralf Schumacher 16th. Honda, on the other hand, went a bit in the opposite direction with Jenson Button 14th and Rubens Barrichello 15th -- both were in the top 10 in the morning practice. Barrichello bought out the red flags when his Honda clipped the barrier at the last corner.

For Toro Rosso and Spyker it was business as usual at the bottom end of the time sheet. Scott Speed was the better of them for Toro Rosso in 19th and teammate Tonio Liuzzi rounded off the times in 22nd. Adrian Sutil was the quicker Spyker car in 20th and Christijan Albers was 21st.

The tricky conditions at least gave the drivers the chance to try out wet tyres as well as dries. The soft dry weather tyres were marked with a white circle to conform with the FIA's ammendment to the regulations that compounds must be "visibly distinguishable" when the cars are on track.

"The medium dry grooved tyre provided a reasonable level of grip and a high level of consistency whilst the soft tyre was fast over a single lap but displayed a higher rate of degradation," said Bridgestone's Kees van de Grint. "Both our wet and extreme tyres were used and it was clear to see the teams knew when to use the correct tyres."

As expected, Ferrari appear to be the pace setters, with McLaren not far behind. Renault also looked quite good but two car failures in one session is a concern. BMW and Williams were interestingly competitive, as were the Super Aguris. For the latter that could be a problem -- Spyker's Colin Kolles is still on his 'customer car' crusade.

No surprises elsewhere, although Red Bull was perhaps better than anticipated over the course of the day. Despite being improved from the first session Toyota was not very noticeable and Honda didn't exactly impress either. However it's early days and too soon to make an accurate assessment.

The top nine, up to and including Kubica, were within a second while at the other end of the grid the Spykers and Toro Rossos were three to four seconds off the pace. Final top eight classification: Massa, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Fisichella, Heidfeld, Wurz, Alonso, Rosberg.

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