Alonso fastest on Belgian GP Friday

Alonso fastest on Belgian GP Friday

McLaren may have taken a battering off the track this week but on track the drivers were out to make a point in Friday's second practice for the Belgian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso clocked 1:46.654 for the top of the list, nearly seven tenths ...

McLaren may have taken a battering off the track this week but on track the drivers were out to make a point in Friday's second practice for the Belgian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso clocked 1:46.654 for the top of the list, nearly seven tenths quicker than Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in the morning, and teammate Lewis Hamilton was a tenth behind in second.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-22.
Photo by xpb.cc.

"A good start to the weekend, with all our set-up work completed and with some positive results," said Alonso. "The car feels good to drive round here, but as always there is still room for improvement. We have a good idea of where we are and where we can improve, so it should be a close fight all weekend."

Hamilton was equally satisfied. "Today we completed all our work without any problems," he commented. "The balance of the car on this technical circuit is good, but I struggled to get a clear lap all session until the very end. That being said I could really feel a definite improvement in our overall performance since we tested here back in July."

Felipe Massa had some issues in the morning when his Ferrari went off track before he'd even set a time but he bounced back in the afternoon to score the third quickest time, three tenths off Alonso. Raikkonen followed on in fourth, a further couple of tenths behind. Ferrari is tipped to be strong here at Spa but McLaren is not backing down.

"We did some useful work on set-up and on the balance of the car and on a comparison of the two types of Bridgestone tyre available to us," said Massa. "From what we could see, we are working in the right direction. Now, we have to analyse the data very carefully to be as well prepared as possible for tomorrow's qualifying and for Sunday's race."

The familiar top three order where the teams are concerned was disrupted by Toyota usurping BMW Sauber's usual third spot. Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher were fifth and sixth respectively, although only Trulli was within a second of the lead McLaren. Both Renaults made the top 10, Giancarlo Fisichella seventh and Heikki Kovalainen 10th.

Mark Webber also made the grade, his Red Bull eighth, but teammate David Coulthard suffered a suspected hydraulic failure about half way through the session. Despite that he was 13th on the list. Robert Kubica was the lead BMW in ninth while Nick Heidfeld only managed 11th, the last to be within a second of Alonso.

Nico Rosberg's Williams was 12th, six tenths quicker than teammate Alex Wurz in 16th. The Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello were 14th and 15th respectively, while Spyker's Sakon Yamamoto was at the front of the backmarker gang in 17th. Teammate Adrian Sutil was 20th, seven tenths adrift of Yamamoto.

Sebastian Vettel was the better of the Toro Rossos in 18th and Tonio Liuzzi was last but the Italian had car problems. The Super Aguris were in the tail-end mix, Takuma Sato 19th and Anthony Davidson 21st. All the drivers from the last three teams were over three seconds down on Alonso's pace, although Yamamoto and Vettel by less than a tenth.

Once again there were a few off track incidents -- Sutil bought out the yellow flags when he went off at Malmedy -- but nothing serious. There's very little between McLaren and Ferrari at the top but it's too early to make any predictions. Final top eight classification: Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Trulli, Schumacher, Fisichella, Webber.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Anthony Davidson , Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Robert Kubica , Sebastian Vettel , Sakon Yamamoto , Adrian Sutil
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams