Hamilton edges ahead in French GP last practice

Hamilton edges ahead in French GP last practice

Lewis Hamilton just edged ahead of the Ferraris to the top of the times in the last practice for the French Grand Prix, the McLaren man clocking 1:14.843 late in the session that had again seen the scarlet cars mostly leading the way. Felipe...

Lewis Hamilton just edged ahead of the Ferraris to the top of the times in the last practice for the French Grand Prix, the McLaren man clocking 1:14.843 late in the session that had again seen the scarlet cars mostly leading the way. Felipe Massa's Ferrari was less than a tenth behind and teammate Kimi Raikkonen was third quickest.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-22.
Photo by xpb.cc.

It was a fair morning, the track temperature in the low thirties and the air around 10 degrees lower as cars went out for installation laps. The Spykers of Adrian Sutil and Chrstijan Albers, who had a difficult day on Friday, the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson and the Toyota pair of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher were among the first to take to the track.

Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed, who were well up the times in yesterday's afternoon practice, were also out, as were the Williams duo of Nico Rosberg and Alex Wurz, the Renaults of Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen, Red Bull's David Coulthard and Mark Webber and the McLarens of Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

Nick Heidfeld finished Friday's second practice early due to back pain but the BMW Sauber man was back on track this morning and seemingly fine, along with teammate Robert Kubica. As usual nobody was in a hurry to put in a flying lap but after 10 minutes had passed Sutil clocked 1:19.194 to start the proceedings, with Albers just over a tenth off.

Sutil improved but Sato outdid him with a 1:17.918 and Davidson took the second spot, four tenths down on his teammate. Sato's next was half a second up on his previous but it was soon replaced by Trulli's 1:16.562, seven and a half tenths clear. Schumacher slotted into second, four tenths off, and Liuzzi posted fourth but Heidfeld took the place off him on his first flyer.

Rubens Barrichello was the first Honda to appear, ninth, while Kovalainen clocked third on his initial timed effort. He lost it to Kubica and the second Honda of Jenson Button arrived in seventh but was immediately by Speed. Kovalainen went up one to second, less than a tenth off Trulli, and Liuzzi improved to third.

Rosberg posted fifth and Raikkonen's Ferrari took to the track after about 20 minutes, which left just Massa to make an appearance. Meanwhile, Kovalainen had taken over at the top, 1:16.216, and Kubica was second, a tenth and a half down. Raikkonen made short work of the lead Renault and clocked 1:15.828, nearly four tenths up.

Both Red Bulls were running in the top 10 at that stage, as were the Williams pair, while Raikkonen improved to 1:15.640. Fisichella climbed to sixth from the midfield but the session was red flagged at nearly the half way stage when a section of artificial turf by the kerbing came loose and needed to be repaired.

It was a short pause and Massa was quick to get back out, his first foray having been interrupted by the delay. He went straight to the top, 1:15.437 for two tenths up on Raikkonen, then improved by another fraction of a tenth. With 20 minutes remaining Hamilton finally set a time and took second but Raikkonen retaliated to take the place back.

The gap to Massa was just under two tenths, while Kovalainen, Kubica and Trulli made up the top six. Coulthard, Wurz, Schumacher and Fisichella rounded out the top 10 and Alonso still hadn't done a flying lap. Fisichella climbed a few places to fifth, Renault looking quite sprightly this morning.

Massa honed his top time to 1:15.422 and Raikkonen was just a couple of hundredths down. Sato moved up to fifth after being shuffled down the order but was quickly replaced by Button, and Massa was still going, his next a 1:15.031. The McLarens were low key; with 10 minutes to go Hamilton had only done a handful laps and no sign of Alonso.

Rosberg made his way back up the order after being moved down and posted fourth and Hamilton woke up to clock 1:14.843 and remove Massa from the top. Fisichella snatched the fourth spot and Davidson improved to ninth, while Heidfeld, who had been idling near the back, climbed to 11th. Massa lapped less then a tenth off Hamilton but time was just about up.

There were a couple of late improvements, Trulli to eighth and Coulthard to ninth, and as the clock ticked down to zero Alonso popped in his one and only flyer to go eighth. It seems he had brake problems which hopefully have been resolved for this afternoon. Final top eight classification: Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen, Kovalainen, Fisichella, Kubica, Rosberg, Alonso.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella , Takuma Sato , Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Ralf Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Kimi Raikkonen , Anthony Davidson , Fernando Alonso , Alexander Wurz , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Scott Speed , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Robert Kubica , Adrian Sutil
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams