After Ferraris dominated the morning session, final Friday practice for the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya ended with a little something for everyone: Force India drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil ran 1-2 atop...
After Ferraris dominated the morning session, final Friday practice for the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya ended with a little something for everyone: Force India drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil ran 1-2 atop time charts. Red Bull's David Coulthard ran quickest at one moment. Then it was Williams' Nico Rosberg then Kazuki Nakajima. To the delight of home fans, Renault's Fernando Alonso -- who has taken pains to let his Formula One-mad countrymen know there's no podium to be had this weekend -- was fastest, then so was his teammate, Brazilian Nelsinho Piquet. But in the final moments, quickest time was put down by World Driving Champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari.
Raikkonen's 1 minute, 21.935 seconds was the only afternoon lap under 1:22. He scooped it to displace the Renaults of Piquet (1:22.019) and Alonso (1:22.032), and disappoint a sizeable crowd across from the Renault garage, despite the times marking the French team's first whiff of speed this season. Crowds elsewhere around the 2.889-mile track were somewhat sparse. Spanish ticket buyers have embraced a new race scheduled for August on the streets of Valencia over the Catalan event.
Nakajima, Felipe Massa for Ferrari, Mark Webber in Red Bull, Rosberg, Coulthard and Fisichella rounded out the top 10 in final practice. Only thereafter followed McLaren Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, ahead of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld in the BMW Saubers, Jarno Trulli (Toyota), Jenson Button (Honda), Heikki Kovalainen in the other McLaren, Rubens Barrichello in the other Honda, the Toro Rossos of Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais, Timo Glock's Toyota and the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson.
Kovalainen was plagued by mechanical problems all day, gearbox gremlins reducing his morning laps and his McLaren halting on course before the end of second practice.
The Super Aguris apparently will race despite a desperate financial situation in which a major backer failed to produce last year and an expected buyout failed to materialize earlier this month. Honda is picking up the check this weekend for the team formed around Sato for the 2006 season but warns it will not happen for the next race, in Turkey on May 11.
Full seconds separated runners only to have gaps close and times bunch. Quick final-sector times seemed most difficult to bag, the final, slow corners of the circuit negating aerodynamically and mechanically derived speed from the rest of the course.
Although Red Bull and Williams continued to show consistent promise, second-practice times will not best please McLaren or BMW Sauber or even Toyota. McLaren is recognized as a top runner with BMW Sauber knocking on the door of the Ferrari-McLaren juggernaut; indeed, the Munich-Hinwil team tops the constructors' points table. Toyota, too, had shown signs of lift into a solidly top-10 team. If anything, second practice reinforced last week's testing, in which Renault, Honda and Red Bull topped unofficial time charts, albeit on slick tires brought out by Bridgestone in preparation for a rules change next season.
First practice was a better lineup of the usual suspects in the usual order. Raikkonen and Massa were quickest at 1:20.649 and 1:20.699, respectively. Hamilton and Kubica followed, ahead of Kovalainen, Alonso, Piquet and Coulthard.
Friday kicked off the first weekend of the FIA's EveryRace anti-racism campaign. Incidents in winter testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on the first weekend of February prompted the campaign. A handful of spectators heckled Hamilton, the sport's first biracial competitor. At the time, the scandal was F1's biggest, a fact that changed in the past month when a British tabloid got hold of FIA president Max Mosley's private life. Mosley, at the Jordan Rally this weekend, has said he will attend the Grand Prix of Monaco at the end of May, a week ahead of an extraordinary meeting of the FIA General Assembly, at which a vote of confidence will determine if he keeps his unpaid job through the end of its term, October 2009. Mosley, 68, has said he does not intend to serve beyond the current term. His legal action against the tabloid is pending.