BMW Sauber's new third driver Sebastian Vettel impressed on his F1 debut when he clocked the fastest time of Friday's practice sessions for the Turkish Grand Prix. The German youngster set a best of 1:28.091 in the afternoon, just over two tenths quicker than McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen had been in the morning. Ferrari's Felipe Massa was second quickest in the afternoon and Honda's Jenson Button was third.
Track temperature was up to 50 degrees for the start of the second session and MF1 third driver Giorgio Mondini was quickly out on the circuit. Fellow No.3s Alex Wurz (Williams) and Vettel followed on, along with the Super Aguri of Sakon Yamamoto. Toro Rosso third driver Neel Jani was also out early on.
Honda No.3 Anthony Davidson joined them, while Mondini set the best time, 1:32.556. Vettel, Wurz, Jani and Yamamoto trailed behind then Vettel went to the top, 1:32.174. Davidson's 1:30.819 immediately demoted the BMW, over a second up. Ralf Schumacher's Toyota was next to appear, followed by Super Aguri No.3 Franck Montagny.
Davidson improved to 1:30.665, leaving Vettel a second and a half off, and Red Bull third driver Robert Doornbos joined the track action. Ralf clocked third quickest and Montangy eighth, and Doornbos' first flyer put him seventh. Toyota's Jarno Trulli and the Williams of Nico Roberg were next to venture out onto the Istanbul track.
Ralf improved to second but was still just over a second off Davidson, while MF1's Tiago Monteiro and Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi put in installation laps. Rosberg posted 10th on his first flyer and Vettel took over at the top, 1:30.630 for just under half a tenth up on Davidson. Doornbos moved up to fourth and Rosberg to seventh.
Trulli took fourth and Rosberg was still on the move, up to fifth. Massa was the first Ferrari out and went straight to the top, 1:29.743, nearly nine tenths up on Vettel. Scott Speed's Toro Rosso arrived in fifth and Christian Klien's Red Bull in ninth, while teammate David Coulthard was 15th on his first timed effort.
Christijan Albers' MF1 was 12th behind Wurz and the Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella made an appearance after 20 minutes. Michael Schumacher ousted Ferrari teammate Massa from the top spot with a 1:29.273, half a second up, then there was a mad rush; Massa returned to the top, 1:29.743, and Alonso took second.
Michael once again demoted Massa, 1:29.224, and Speed snatched the second spot but was also once again demoted by first Alonso and then the Honda of Button. Fisichella posted sixth and the second Honda of Rubens Barrichello was seventh. Meanwhile, Ralf had dropped to 10th and the Williams of Mark Webber was 11th.
By half way through Michael was still at the top, followed by Button, Alonso, Massa and Speed was hanging in there for fifth. The McLarens of Kimi Raikkonen and Pedro de la Rosa and the BMWs of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica had yet to appear, as well as the Super Aguri of Takuma Sato.
Ralf improved to fifth and de la Rosa went straight to the top on his first effort, 1:29.112 for just over a tenth up on Michael. Sato managed 26th and Heidfeld 15th, while Raikkonen slotted into fourth on his initial flyer. Sato improved to 22nd and Kubica was the last man to set a time, his BMW posting 14th.
Wurz moved up to 12th after being shuffled down the order and Kubica improved to 11th. Heading into the final 20 minutes things went quiet; there were one or two changes in the order but nothing startling and the top four remained the same, de la Rosa, Michael, Button and Raikkonen. Barrichello improved to fifth and Alonso rounded off the top six.
Mondini then made a notable jump up to sixth, ahead of Alonso and Massa, and teammate Monteiro climbed from the back to 22nd. Doornbos shot to the top, 1:28.848, but was immediately eclipsed by Ralf's 1:28.614. The Toyota in turn fell to Vettel's 1:28.091, the young German making quite an impression on his F1 debut.
Davidson moved into second, half a second off Vettel, and Michael also made a move, up to fourth after being dropped down the order. Massa did likewise to second, less than a tenth off the lead BMW. In the last couple of minutes Button went back to third after dropping a place but there was nothing else remarkable in the way of improvements.
"I am surprised at this result," said Vettel. "It has been difficult for me as I didn't know the circuit and have had only one proper Formula 1 test. However, I felt very comfortable, I was able to deliver some information and on top of it all it was great! What happens in the fast corners is just indescribable."
It was a positive day for Massa. "We have worked a lot on tyre choice for the race and we have ended up with a pretty clear picture of the situation," he commented. "First impressions are that the car is well balanced. I am happy about that and I am confident that we can be competitive. Yes, it's only Friday but at least everything is in place for me to feel this way."
Button was also happy with his day's work. "I'm pleased with the way today has gone," said the Honda driver. "So we'll sit down with Michelin this evening and discuss which is the better tyre option for the weekend. I had a small mechanical problem at the start of this afternoon's session, which cost me some time when we had to take the floor off, but everything is okay."
Third drivers aside, Ferrari, Honda and McLaren seemed fairly competitive but both Renaults were outside the top 10. Not that it necessarily means much but Alonso in 12th was stuck between an MF1 and a Toro Rosso, while Fisichella was 18th. Both Renault drivers suffered from tyre graining, as did several others.
Williams and Red Bull were not particularly noticeable while Toyota was six of one and half a dozen of the other with Ralf fifth and Trulli 15th. A pretty average Friday all in all, although Albers suffered yet another engine failure. Final top eight classification: Vettel, Massa, Button, Davidson, R. Schumacher, M. Schumacher, Doornbos, Raikkonen.