Renault threw down the gauntlet for qualifying in the last practice session for the Canadian Grand Prix with Fernando Alonso fastest and Giancarlo Fisichella second. Alonso clocked 1:15.455 around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and Fisichella was...
Renault threw down the gauntlet for qualifying in the last practice session for the Canadian Grand Prix with Fernando Alonso fastest and Giancarlo Fisichella second. Alonso clocked 1:15.455 around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and Fisichella was less than a tenth off. BMW Sauber impressed, Jacques Villeneuve third fastest and Nick Heidfeld fourth.
Track temperature was in the mid-thirties at the start of the session and the Super Aguris of Franck Montagny and Takuma Sato were first out on the circuit. The MF1 duo of Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers followed on for installation laps and Montagny clocked the first time, a leisurely 1:23.041.
The Frenchman had the track to himself for a little while as he was the only one lapping. He lowered his time to 1:21.688 on his next couple of trips around, while Red Bull's David Coulthard and the Toyota of Jarno Trulli were next to appear. Coulthard posted 1:18.627 on his first flyer and Trulli slotted into second, just under a tenth off.
Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi and Honda's Rubens Barrichello went out on track and Trulli took the top spot, 1:17.503. Ralf Schumacher's Toyota joined the action along with the second Toro Rosso of Scott Speed, while Liuzzi posted third and Barrichello fourth. Sato also arrived on the time sheet, five seconds off the pace.
Ralf took fourth then Barrichello improved to third, and Felipe Massa was the first Ferrari on track, followed by the McLarens of Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya. Speed posted fourth and Massa seventh then Raikkonen's first effort put him to the top, 1:17.341 for a tenth and a half up on Trulli.
Montoya clocked fifth on his first flyer and Albers and Monteiro took 10th and 11th respectively. Raikkonen improved his time to 1:17.018 and Christian Klien's Red Bull slotted into eighth on his first timed lap then went up to fifth. Fisichella's Renault started with 10th and Nico Rosberg's Williams with 14th.
Jenson Button's Honda was one behind in 15th and Klein was still on the move, up to second for less than a tenth off Raikkonen. Button climbed to eighth, Fisichella to fourth and Rosberg to 12th and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari arrived in third. Local hero Villeneuve put his BMW Sauber 16th to start with.
The second BMW of Heidfeld clocked fourth on his first flyer then moved up one to third and not to be outdone, Villeneuve took over at the top with a 1:16.992. Mark Webber's Williams and Alonso were the last two to make the time sheet in 19th and 11th respectively.
Alonso then improved to sixth and Massa was next to go fastest, 1:16.890 for a tenth up on Villeneuve. Behind them were Raikkonen, Klien, Heidfeld and Alonso to make up the top six half way through. Alonso moved ahead of Heidfeld and Liuzzi took the second spot, four hundredths off Massa.
Raikkonen set fastest sectors all round the lap to clock 1:15.902, nearly a second up on the Brazilian's Ferrari. Montoya, who had been languishing in the midfield, split the two with second, less than a tenth off his teammate. Rosberg also woke up and improved to third followed by Webber doing the same, a tenth quicker.
Button and Fisichella, who had likewise been some way down the list, climbed to 12th and third respectively, Fisichella seven tenths off the McLaren pair. Heidfeld move back up the list to fifth after being shuffled down the order and Massa did the same to fourth. The activity slowed in the last 15 minutes with no big changes in the order.
As the session started to wind down Speed was the next man to make a move, up to fifth from the midfield. There was a little squabbling at the back between the Super Aguris and the MF1s, while Klien moved back up to sixth after being dropped outside the top 10. Michael also climbed from down the list to second, half a tenth off Raikkonen.
Coulthard improved from near the back to ninth and Heidfeld shot to the top, 1:15.616 for nearly three tenths up on the McLaren. He was immediately ousted by Alonso's 1:15.445 and Villeneuve took second, a tenth down. Fisichella demoted the Canadian, seven hundredths off his teammate, so it was Renault and BMW on top at the end.
Is BMW ready to battle with the front runners? It's difficult to imagine the team has improved enough to sustain the fight over a race distance but Heidfeld and Villeneuve looked on the pace this morning. They should certainly make the top 10 in qualifying. Renault, as always, was competitive but what about Ferrari?
Alonso said yesterday that he thought the Scuderia was sandbagging a bit but this morning they weren't exactly making a big impression. Michael and Massa were solidly in the top 10 but not really noticeable. McLaren showed a couple of quick turns of speed but one would have to imagine Renault is favourite for pole.
Still, there's room for surprises as nobody has really showed their cards yet this weekend. Honda and Williams seem to be lagging a bit overall, while Toyota was way down the time sheet. Qualifying should be interesting. Final top eight classification: Alonso, Fisichella, Villeneuve, Heidfeld, Raikkonen, M. Schumacher, Montoya, Barrichello.