Kubica stays top on French GP Friday

Kubica stays top on French GP Friday

BMW Sauber third driver Robert Kubica held the top spot in Friday's second practice session for the French Grand Prix, although was not quite as quick as he was in the morning. Hs afternoon's best time was 1:16.902, a tenth slower than his earlier...

BMW Sauber third driver Robert Kubica held the top spot in Friday's second practice session for the French Grand Prix, although was not quite as quick as he was in the morning. Hs afternoon's best time was 1:16.902, a tenth slower than his earlier effort. Renault's Fernando Alonso was second quickest in the afternoon and Honda No.3 Anthony Davidson was third.

Robert Kubica.
Photo by xpb.cc.

The conditions remained fine, with the track temperature up to 50 degrees as Kubica led out to get the session under way. The other third drivers followed on, Robert Doornbos (Red Bull), Adrian Sutil (MF1), Alex Wurz (Williams), Sakon Yamamoto (Super Aguri), Neel Jani (Toro Rosso) and Davidson.

BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld was the first race driver on track but it was the usual suspects putting the early laps in. Sutil, Doornbos and Kubica were first on the time sheet, a 1:21.009 for the MF1, then Wurz took over with a 1:20.252. Jani and Yamamoto joined in fifth and sixth and Davidson was next to the top, 1:19.261.

Doornbos moved up to second, while MF1's Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro and Toro Rosso's Scott Speed made an appearance. Albers clocked sixth then Speed fifth and Ralf Schumacher's Toyota and Tonio Liuzzi's Toro Rosso also made their way onto the track. Takuma Sato's Super Aguri posted ninth on his first timed lap.

Speed went up one to fourth and Ralf took sixth, while Liuzzi started with 12th. Ralf demoted Speed from fourth and Toyota's Jarno Trulli ventured out, followed by the Ferrari of Felipe Massa. Nico Rosberg's Williams also hit the track -- the team is concerned he may have to have his engine changed after it was apparently over-revved at Indianapolis.

Trulli clocked sixth and Massa was setting fastest sectors on his first flyer, finishing at the top with a 1:19.222, less than a tenth up on Davidson. Trulli improved again to third and Rosberg began with 11th, while Massa stayed out and lowered his time to 1:19.048, the gap to Davidson then two tenths.

Rubens Barrichello was the first of the Honda racers out and was a lowly 16th. Rosberg went up to seventh then Jani sprung a surprise and put his Toro Rosso fastest, 1:18.907. Barrichello improved to third and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari arrived at the top of the list, 1:17.938. Pedro de la Rosa, Juan Pablo Montoya's replacement, put his McLaren seventh.

There was a lull in the action when Barrichello's hit the barrier in the middle sector and bought out the yellow flags. It appeared to be a minor shunt and the track quickly went green again. Michael was still fastest but Jani was hanging in there in second, nearly a second slower than the Ferrari. David Coulthard's Red Bull took 14th and the Honda of Jenson Button 16th.

Giancarlo Fisichella was the first Renault on the time sheet for the day, third, and Trulli improved to fifth after being moved down the order. Fisichella then took over the top spot, fractionally faster than Michael with a 1:17.916. Christian Klien's Red Bull posted 20th and Alonso started with 12th.

The reigning champion then set fastest sectors in one and two to remove Fisichella from the top, 1:17.498 for four tenths up. Despite having been out early Heidfeld didn't get onto the time sheet until half way through, 22nd, and BMW teammate Jacques Villeneuve was 27th. Only Williams' Mark Webber and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen had not set a time.

Villeneuve climbed to 20th Heidfeld shot up to seventh, while Raikkonen arrived in 10th then improved a couple of places to eighth. Heading into the last 20 minutes Webber finally reached the list in 24th. Sutil was doing a notable job for MF1, up from the midfield to take sixth, while Webber improved to 12th.

There was another yellow flag period when Speed had problems at the same place as Barrichello and found the barrier. When the Toro Rosso ws clear, Albers climbed from the back to 18th and in the final 10 minutes the pace picked up a bit. Kubica returned to the top after a brief spell in the midfield, his 1:17.935 a tenth up on Alonso.

Wurz made a similar move up to third, followed by Doornbos into sixth. He was immediately demoted by Sutil taking the place back, while both Toyotas worked their way back into the top 10 after being shuffled down the times. Kubica clocked 1:16.902 and widened the gap between himself and Alonso to six tenths.

However, at the end of the session the Renaults were still the fastest race drivers out there, with Alonso second and Fisichella fifth. Most people predict a return to the French squad leading the way now F1 is back in Europe and the blues looked on their toes at Magny Cours on Friday.

Still, Michael was the next fastest racer and although Massa got edged down the times towards the end, Ferrari appeared competitive. It's harder to say about McLaren; de la Rosa put a few laps in but was down in 22nd while Raikkonen was 15th. Of course, the team didn't get very far at Indy so there's no indicator there but Canada was reasonable.

Toyota was at the edges of the top 10 but seemed to be the best of the rest, although Friday isn't necessarily a reliable predictor of performance. Indy was good for Toyota until Ralf's unfortunate late retirement but can the team keep it up?

The rest were pretty much an unremarkable jumble but Williams and Red Bull seemed to struggle. Once again we're going to have to wait for Saturday before we see a clearer picture. Final top eight classification: Kubica, Alonso, Davidson, Wurz, Fisichella, M. Schumacher, Sutil, Doornbos.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Toro Rosso , Williams