F1

McLaren rules again in Spanish GP last practice

McLaren rules again in Spanish GP last practice

McLaren has been at the top of the time sheet since the start of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend and Saturday morning was no different. In the last practice it was Lewis Hamilton's 1:21.233 that just edged out teammate Fernando Alonso by under a ...

McLaren has been at the top of the time sheet since the start of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend and Saturday morning was no different. In the last practice it was Lewis Hamilton's 1:21.233 that just edged out teammate Fernando Alonso by under a tenth of a second. BMW Sauber had a good morning, Robert Kubica third and Nick Heidfeld fourth.

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

The track temperature was in the high thirties at the start of the session and about three quarters of the pack spooled out for installation laps, then it went quiet again. The Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher and the Spykers of Adrian Sutil and Christijan Albers were first to return to the track and start putting a few laps in.

Trulli clocked 1:24.373 and Schumacher was less than a tenth off. Sutil took third then lost it to Albers, while Trulli lowered his time but was outdone by Schumacher's 1:23.531, just three thousandths ahead. The Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello were back out, as were the Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed.

The Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson, and Kubica and Heidfeld were next. Meanwhile, Barrichello had taken fourth and Button fifth, both behind Sato in third. Sato in turn fell to Liuzzi and Davidson took the sixth spot. Trulli moved back to the top with a 1:23.261 and Schumacher held second, two and a half tenths off his teammate.

Kubica slotted into fourth on his first flyer but immediately lost it to Speed, while Heidfeld split the Toyotas in second, fractionally faster than Schumacher. It was short lived as Felipe Massa's Ferrari took the place but Heidfeld bounced back to go fastest, 1:22.903. Speed improved to third and Heikki Kovalainen's Renault arrived in sixth.

Massa was on a hot lap and went to the top with a 1:22.214 and Alex Wurz' Williams started with ninth. Kovalainen moved up to third then Alonso appeared, the McLaren clocking 1:22.178 for marginally faster than Massa. Nico Rosberg's Williams made a good start with fourth and Alonso improved to 1:21893, three tenths up on teammate Hamilton who took second on his first effort.

Trulli and Rosberg were tussling over fourth and Kimi Raikkonen put his Ferrari sixth when he went out. The Finn then clocked 1:21.874 for the top, just a couple of hundredths up on Alonso. Mark Webber's Red Bull was a late arrival, further down the pack in 13th but then he climbed to seventh on his next effort. Teammate David Coulthard and Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella were the last yet to set a time.

Half way through and there was no change at the top, Raikkonen leading Alonso, Hamilton and Massa. Trulli was fifth, then came Rosberg, Webber, Heidfeld and Schumacher, with Kovalainen rounding off the top 10. Coulthard finally put in a time and took the third spot from Hamilton. There were a few laps being put in up and down the field but not a great deal of movement in the positions.

Massa went up to second behind Raikkonen, again another very small gap, then the Brazilian had another go and clocked 1:21.659. However, Hamilton was also on a flyer and managed 1:21.233, just over four tenths up. Fisichella eventually made an appearance and slotted into 13th then improved to 10th. Button climbed to ninth after being moved down the order and Coulthard moved ahead of Raikkonen for third again.

With about 10 minutes left Sato suddenly shot up to seventh from the midfield and Speed did likewise to eighth. Barrichello, who had been at the very back, improved to ninth and Kubica climbed from 19th to second, just over a tenth off Hamilton. Davidson, who had been dropped by others improving, moved back up to sixth. Heidfeld had been shuffled all the way down the midfield and came back to slot into third.

Kovalainen and Fisichella both returned to the top 10 and in the final minute Alonso regained the second spot, less than a 10th off Hamilton. So once again McLaren ruled the roost, while the Ferraris had the two BMWs and Coulthard's Red Bull in between themselves and their main rivals. However, the general gap between McLaren and Ferrari appears to be very small this weekend.

There was varying consistency between the rest: the Renaults edged the top 10 and the Spykers were at the back, while Coulthard was fifth and Webber down in 18th, Rosberg ninth and Wurz 19th. Will it be a qualifying duel between McLaren and Ferrari again or can someone else get amongst them? Final top eight classification: Hamilton, Alonso, Kubica, Heidfeld, Coulthard, Massa, Raikkonen, Davidson.

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