First a walk-out, then a lock-out.
Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel hogged the top of time charts Friday at Silverstone at both practice sessions for Sunday's British Grand Prix. Veteran Webber held top spot through much of second practice before his youngster and young-star teammate prevailed.
At the venue where, for a second consecutive year, racing became a sideshow to political grandstanding, the only team with a serious challenge to Brawn GP so far this season looked impressive. Only Webber and Vettel dipped under the 1 minute, 20 second mark on the 3.194-mile former airfield circuit. Just over two seconds covered the field. Vettel reached 1:19.400 in first practice and 1:19.456 in the afternoon session. Vettel is the only driver besides Jenson Button to win a race this season. Vettel won in China and Button everywhere else.
As has become his custom, world driving championship leader Button prepared for taking pole Saturday by posting 13th-best afternoon practice time. Button has taken four of seven previous poles this season, often after timing poorly the day before as he struggled to set up the Brawn BGP001. The Englishman was third-quick in the morning but still nearly a second off the pace. Button is bidding to become the 13th British winner of his home grand prix, joining Sir Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks, Peter Collins, Jim Clark, Sir Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, John Watson, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, David Coulthard and Lewis Hamilton.
Teams worked to set up cars for Saturday's qualifying as Europe woke to news that Formula One Teams Association late Thursday decided to break from Formula One governing body the International Automobile Fedearation (FIA) to form a separate series next year. BMW Sauber, Brawn GP, McLaren Mercedes, Renault and Toyota faced an FIA deadline Friday to declare obeyance to rules as currently drafted or to be expelled.
Those teams, Ferrari and the two Red Bull outfits, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso, first rejected FIA rules proposals then attempts to destabilize their unity before deciding to strike out on their own. Two teams suspended for breaking ranks with FOTA, Williams F1 and Force India, earlier signed on to FIA rules without condition. A year ago, the sport's commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone, announced Sunday's race would be the last at the Silverstone circuit drivers adore and the race would move to Donington Park for 2010.
Producing his best practice effort to date, Adrian Sutil of Force India timed in third in the afternoon, ahead of another dark horse, Kazuki Nakajima of Williams F1. His teammate Nico Rosberg is a familiar figure at the top of practice timesheets but Nakajima emerged from the German's shadow with Friday's effort. Williams F1 acknowledges achieving the times on light fuel loads. To date, quick practice times have not resulted in race-day points hauls.
Fifth fastest by the afternoon was Renault's former two-time world driving champion Fernando Alonso. He was followed by the first Brawn GP to appear, that of Rubens Barrichello. Current World Champion Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes, Jarno Trulli of Toyota, Nico Rosberg of Williams F1, and Nelson Piquet of Renault rounded out the top 10. Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber, who spent much of second practice in the bottom three, ended in 11th. Toyota's Timo Glock was 12th.
Last year's pole holder Heikki Kovalainen of McLaren followed Button. He was trailed by Kubica teammate Nick Heidfeld. Sebastien Bourdais led the Toro Rosso effort. The only result more shocking than Toro Rosso rookie Sebastien Buemi bringing up the rear, behind Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella, was the presence of both Ferraris in the bottom four. Felipe Massa was 17th and Kimi Raikkonen 18th, each of them slithering around in their F60s fighting for balance. Neither could crack the 1:21 mark.