BMW Sauber third driver Sebastian Vettel is making his mark in the Friday practice sessions much the same as Robert Kubica did before him in the same role. Vettel was the fastest man on the first day of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, his time of...
BMW Sauber third driver Sebastian Vettel is making his mark in the Friday practice sessions much the same as Robert Kubica did before him in the same role. Vettel was the fastest man on the first day of the Italian Grand Prix weekend, his time of 1:22.631 six tenths quicker than he was in the morning. The Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa were second and third, Schumacher half a second down on Vettel.
The air temperature was much the same as earlier but the track temperature had climbed a few degrees to the mid thirties. Honda No.3 Anthony Davidson, who suffered a suspected engine failure in the morning session, was quickly out on track, along with counterparts Alex Wurz (Williams), Franck Montagny (Super Aguri), Neel Jani (Toro Rosso), Robert Doornbos (Red Bull) and Giorgio Mondini (MF1).
Also out early on were the Super Aguris of Sakon Yamamoto and Takuma Sato and Giancarlo Fisichella was the first Renault to show face. Vettel joined the action soon after and Wurz topped the times with a 1:26.873. Davidson, Yamamoto, Doornbos, Jani and Mondini queued up behind.
Davidson took over at the top, 1:26.409, and Montangy slotted into third but was swiftly demoted by Sato and Wurz in quick sucession. Vettel went fastest but was immediately replaced by Davidson's 1:25.605, six tenths up. Fernando Alonso's Renault put in a brief appearance but neither he nor Fisichella set a time initially.
Davidson improved his time slightly to 1:25.356 and Wurz took second, just over half a second down. Ralf Schumacher was the first Toyota on track, while Wurz went to the top, 1:25.266. Davidson bought out the yellow flags in the middle sector when his car came to a halt again, this time on fire. Not an auspicious start for Honda's 2007 spec engine which the team is running this weekend.
When the Honda was cleared Vettel clocked 1:25.008 for the top and Ralf slotted into fourth. The Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed ventured out and posted ninth and 11th respectively. Jani had improved to sixth and Speed moved up to 10th, then Liuzzi did likewise to seventh. The Toro Rossos kept going, Speed up to ninth on his next effort but Liuzzi didn't improve on seventh.
Pedro de la Rosa led out for McLaren and went straight to the top, 1:24.642 for three and half tenths up on Vettel. The Spaniard went round again and lowered his time to 1:24.216, widening the gap to the BMW to nearly eight tenths. Toyota's Jarno Trulli posted seventh on his first effort and the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld, Michael and Red Bull's David Coulthard were next out on track.
Trulli moved up to fifth and Heidfeld took second on his first flyer, while Michael went fastest, 1:23.703, half a second up on de la Rosa. Coulthard posted 14th and Michael lowered his time to 1:23.138. Christian Klien's Red Bull appeared along with the MF1s of Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers and they clocked 15th, 19th and 18th respectively.
Massa's Ferrari arrived in second, just under two tenths off Michael, and Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren followed into fifth. Nico Rosberg's Williams took seventh while Massa closed the gap to Michael to four hundredths. Alonso made his first visit of the day to the time sheet in sixth and teammate Fisichella posted 12th.
Klien improved to 14th and Vettel to sixth after being shuffled down the order. Fisichella went up one to 11th and Mark Webber's Williams took 14th on his first effort. Alonso, who had dropped, returned to sixth and with 20 minutes to go things quietened down a little. Three cars had not yet set a time; the Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello and the BMW of Kubica.
Montagny jumped up to ninth and Wurz made his way back up to third after being dropped down, but while there were a few laps being put and there were a few changes further down. Mondini improved to 15th and Trulli to ninth then Albers went up to 23rd from the back. Teammate Monteiro went a couple better for 21st then lost it to Sato.
Speed climbed to 17th and Vettel spoilt the Ferrari party when he clocked 1:22.631, half a second up on Michael. Klien improved to 12th and with five minutes to go Kubica finally made the time sheet and took the spot off him. Kubica stayed out and gained another couple of places to ninth. Coulthard was a late improver to 16th, three behind teammate Klien, and Albers put in a last gasp flyer to post 11th.
"This morning it wasn't too easy for me as since the test here I have been driving Formula 3, but the step up from Formula 3 to Formula 1 is easier than the other way round," said Vettel. "I really enjoy driving this car as it is just fantastic. Apart from the joy of what I am doing and quick lap times, the most important aspect of my job is to provide the team and the race drivers with valuable information."
Schumacher was satisfied with his work. "I would say we had a normal day," he commented. "The times are slower compared with last week and that is down to the fact the track is not as rubbered-in. Having the same engine that I used in the last grand prix is not a disadvantage compared to my main rival. We have simulated the situation in testing and there were no problems.
Massa was positive. "We worked on confirming what we had seen in testing at this track last week and we are competitive," he said. "Again today, the car was very stable and performed consistently and equally good was the performance of the Bridgestone tyres. It all means I can be confident for the rest of the weekend which is a very important one in terms of our chances in both championships."
As expected, Ferrari showed strongly on this high speed circuit and although there was only Wurz between them and the McLarens on the list, the time gap was eight tenths from Massa in third to de la Rosa in fifth. BMW looked handy with all three cars in the top 10 while Renault was split with Alonso eighth and Fisichella 15th.
Montagny and Albers were a bit of a surprise in 10th and 11th ahead of the Toyota, Red Bull and Williams cars. There was not much else of note save for the Honda race drivers not running as a precautionary measure after Davidson's probelms. Final top eight classification: Vettel, M. Schumacher, Massa, Wurz, de la Rosa, Raikkonen, Heidfeld, Alonso.