F1

Massa makes quick work of British GP practice

Massa makes quick work of British GP practice

Leading the usual suspects, that is, Ferrari and McLaren, drivers' table leader Felipe Massa put down fastest time of the day for the first two practice sessions for Formula One's British Grand Prix on Sunday. Felipe Massa, Scuderia ...

Leading the usual suspects, that is, Ferrari and McLaren, drivers' table leader Felipe Massa put down fastest time of the day for the first two practice sessions for Formula One's British Grand Prix on Sunday.

Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari, F2008.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The Brazilian managed to cover the 3.6-mile Silverstone circuit in 1 minute, 19.575 seconds, before missing the equivalent of a full session. With a half hour left in first practice, Massa blasted down the Hangar Straight only to hit an oil slick worthy of a certain British secret agent's Aston Martin DB5 after Fernando Alonso's Renault engine let go. Alonso pulled off promptly enough but the outburst made a mess Massa couldn't miss. Ferrari mechanics restored the heavily damaged F2008 in time to give the unhurt Massa the final half hour of the second session. Massa called the crash "pretty violent."

"Our test engines today had a similar risk to the one that broke at the last race in Magny-Cours," head of Renault's engine track operations Denis Chevrier said. "So the engine problem for Fernando is something that we were already aware of and had identified, and that is going to help our understanding of the problem that is affecting us at the moment. However, for the race engines, we have already taken a number of precautions and we are therefore not particularly worried for the race this weekend."

Both Renault drivers lost a second or more from first to second sessions. Alonso's morning 1:20.436, good for sixth, became a 1:21.511, which put him in 15th. Nelsinho Piquet's eight-best 1:20.653 became a 1:21.642, dropping him to 18th.

Other notable offs of the day belonged to Jarno Trulli, whose Toyota worryingly lost its rear wing, sending the Italian into a lurid spin and crash, and Kazuki Nakajima, who smacked his Williams into the wall near the end of the second session. Trulli's teammate, Timo Glock, was parked with a faulty gearbox at the time. Nakajima apologized to his team.

Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari crashes into the tyre wall at Stowe corner.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"It was going fairly well before the accident," Nakajima said. "I lost the rear at the exit of Turn 12 and just spun into the wall. It's annoying to make such a mistake because it cost me important track time. We'd been having a good run before that, and making good progress for tomorrow, so I also apologize to the team. I will now just keep my head down and look ahead to qualifying."

The only drivers to post sub-1:20 lap times were at the wheels of McLarens and Ferraris. Heikki Kovalainen put his McLaren Mercedes second to Massa in first practice and top of the list in second with 1:19.587 and 1:19.989, respectively. Lewis Hamilton of McLaren was third-best in both sessions, at 1:19.623 and 1:20.543, respectively. Defending world driving champ Kimi Raikkonen was fourth-fast in the morning at 1:19.948, but his time fell to 1:21.275 for 12th in the second session. It was down to handling.

"I had a bit of a struggle to find the best settings on the car, which was not working as well as it had done in last week's test," Raikkonen said. "We have to look at the data to understand why. Obviously, the order in the second session is not representative of the relative strengths in the field. But I am still reasonably confident and if we manage to find a good setup, then we can fight for the top places."

Times were generally slower for the second session in the afternoon as teams sorted through tire selections and fuel loads. Drivers' table runner-up Robert Kubica, whose F1.08 was hobbled by suspension problems, was fifth-best for BMW Sauber in the morning but the tabulation fell to 11th by afternoon. His teammate Nick Heidfeld could do no better than 13th in both sessions. Heidfeld continues to struggle in the shadow of his Polish teammate.

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber F1 Team.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"I'm not happy yet," Heidfeld said. "For last week's test the balance of the car was better. I think this is due to the stronger winds we now have, which cause the balance to change every lap. I had difficulties with the softer tires, as for me they didn't even last for a single lap."

As a coming team in the Best of the Rest race, Red Bull drivers David Coulthard (ret.-to-be) and Mark Webber improved times from first to second sessions. Webber's RB4 suffered an electronics problem in the first session. Both popped into the top four -- Webber second from 11th, Coulthard fourth from ninth -- in the second session.

Williams runner Nico Rosberg concentrated on comparing tires. Lapping consistently at around 1:20.745, Rosberg improved from 10th to fifth from first session to second.

Also notably consistent was Scuderia Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel. The German's times were within a half-second from morning to afternoon, good for seventh then sixth on the charts.

"Last week's test was the first time I drove this track and I like it, especially the first part with very fast corners and combinations of them," Vettel said. "It's good fun and today we had a very productive session, ending up with clear answers on all the things we had on our test list. Therefore we can be quite happy, but now we must analyze what the others did to get a better idea of how quick we are - or how slow. I think we are in a good shape, the balance feels good and I'm happy with that."

S?bastien Bourdais, Scuderia Toro Rosso, STR03.
Photo by xpb.cc.

Said STR teammate Sebastien Bourdais: "The track got more slippery as the temperature went up so it was difficult to read what the car was doing, especially as it would change from run to run, maybe partly because the wind was gusting occasionally."

Both Hondas were sidelined with suspension gremlins during the morning session. When they could run freely in the afternoon, Jenson Button, currently the most competitively challenged of the British racers, cut more than a second off his installation-lap time and a half-second off his best from last week's tire test time at this track. Button finished with seventh-best time, 1:20.929. Rubens Barrichello, too, improved his time vastly from the morning installation, cutting more than 3 seconds off his time. Both drivers improved by 10 positions on time charts and reached the top 10. But Button, who might be hoping rain forecasts come true, as he goes well in the wet, warned the practice showing isn't a measure of the RA108's competitiveness.

"We have a lot to achieve overnight to set ourselves up for qualifying," he said.

Makeover winners Force India, sporting new inertial damper, front wing, sidepods and "shark fin" engine cover, were nonetheless sort of slow, staying off the bottom of the charts only because Barrichello's Honda was 4.5 seconds slower than Ferraris in the first session and Trulli took parked honors in the second. Neither Adrian Sutil nor Giancarlo Fisichella put in more than 20 laps in the opening session.

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