McLaren third driver Alex Wurz once again claimed the top spot in the second practice session for the German Grand Prix, his time of 1:13.973 about three tenths quicker than he was in the morning. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen was six tenths astray in...
McLaren third driver Alex Wurz once again claimed the top spot in the second practice session for the German Grand Prix, his time of 1:13.973 about three tenths quicker than he was in the morning. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen was six tenths astray in second and Renault's Fernando Alonso took the third slot.
The conditions remained cool and once again it was the third drivers who took to the track first, Wurz, Toyota's Ricardo Zonta and Red Bull's Tonio Liuzzi leading the pack out for installation laps. Wurz quickly started the proceedings with a 1:18.770 and Zonta was half a second down. Raikkonen was next up, 1:16.216, and Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve joined in fourth.
Minardi's Robert Doornbos took fifth, followed by the Jordans of Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro, while Raikkonen improved to 1:15.815. Wurz was over a second down and Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella took third, 2.5 off Raikkonen. Minardi's Christijan Albers clocked sixth and Juan Pablo Montoya put his McLaren third.
The second Renault of Alonso took fourth and Jenson Button's BAR arrived in eighth. Wurz improved to half a second off Raikkonen and Zonta posted sixth, then Button went up to fifth. Ralf Schumacher's Toyota took 10th, one behind Villeneuve, and Albers led the Minardi/Jordan pack in 12th.
Zonta improved to fourth and Rubens Barrichello's Ferrari took ninth, then Button demoted Zonta from the fourth spot. Wurz closed the gap to Raikkonen to just under three tenths, Zonta went up to third and Liuzzi to fifth after being shuffled down the times. Ralf climbed to seventh but was demoted by Barrichello taking the place.
Jarno Trulli put his Toyota ninth and Button again made his way back up to fifth, then Liuzzi improved to fourth, but nobody except Wurz was anywhere near Raikkonen's time. Nick Heidfeld's Williams joined 12th and teammate Mark Webber 10th, and Sauber's Felipe Massa clocked 14th on his first effort. Heidfeld then went up to seventh.
Wurz was chipping away at Raikkonen's lead, the gap down to a tenth and a half, and Alonso slotted into third, eight tenths off the lead McLaren. Fisichella climbed back up to seventh and Massa to 10th, while Alonso improved his time but stayed third, six tenths off Raikkonen. Takuma Sato's BAR started with 14th then climbed to sixth.
Fisichella took third off teammate Alonso by one thousandth, and at the other end of the field it was still Albers leading the backmarkers in 17th, with Jordan third driver Nicolas Kiesa bringing up the rear. Zonta improved his time but stayed fifth, the top five covered by six tenths of a second at that time.
After being demoted down the order Barrichello made his way up to sixth and Montoya took over the third spot. Raikkonen dropped his time to 1:15.180 to leave Wurz eight tenths behind -- now only the top three were within a second. Wurz took up Raikkonen's challenge and clocked a stunning 1:13.973, over a second up.
David Coulthard's Red Bull spun off track in the last sector before he even set a time, while Michael Schumacher climbed to eighth, one behind Ferrari teammate Barrichello. Alonso moved ahead of Fisichella for fourth but from Montoya in third everyone was two seconds and more off the pace of Wurz.
Alonso then demoted Montoya, his time just squeezing under the two second gap to the lead McLaren, and about seven tenths down on second placed Raikkonen. At the back, Monteiro took his turn at leading the Jordan/Minardi train in 18th and by half way through only Red Bull's Christian Klien had not set a time.
Button posted eighth and Zonta sixth, and Massa made a good effort to jump up to fifth, just fractionally behind Montoya. Klien finally got going and clocked 16th but there was little activity mid-way through the session. Trulli made his way back up to eighth and Klien gained a place to 15th, while Doornbos took 19th to lead the backmarkers.
Webber posted 10th and Button 9th, those outside the top seven moving up and down the times quite often. Raikkonen closed the gap to Wurz to six tenths and Alonso also improved but was still nine tenths off Raikkonen. Montoya was a couple of tenths behind Alonso and Massa about four tenths down on Montoya, the times improving but all holding station.
Fisichella climbed to sixth, just a few hundredths behind Massa, and Liuzzi clocked ninth. Fisichella then demoted Massa to take fifth by an equally narrow margin as he had been behind him. Klien improved to 11th and Barrichello had been shuffled so far down that when he bettered his time it only promoted him to 15th.
Ralf moved up to 11th and Zonta to fifth, while Button was another who was up and down the times, the BAR improving to 13th. There was no change at the top in the closing stages, Wurz staying firmly put in the favoured position of McLaren third drivers on a Friday -- fastest.
"I'm really happy with our performance today at the Mercedes-Benz home grand prix, and it's especially satisfying to have set the fastest time of the day," said Wurz. "We still have some work to do regarding our Michelin tyre choice and the general fine tuning of our race set-up. The track was very slippery in the first session which took me by surprise, but the grip level continued to increase throughout the day."
Raikkonen believes the McLaren is in good shape for the win on Sunday. "The car was quick almost immediately which is always a good sign, and we could spend some more time on our Michelin tyre programme," he commented. "The aim is to win the race and after today's sessions I'm certain that we have a very strong package which will allow us to do that."
Alonso struggled with braking due to the cool track conditions but is optimistic. "Apart from the problems caused by the low track temperature, the car actually felt pretty good: the balance was consistent, and we are higher up the times than usual for a Friday -- I am the second fastest race driver," said the Spaniard.
If we disregard Wurz' time -- third drivers don't have to be as conservative as the race drivers -- Raikkonen was out on his own, nearly a second faster than Alonso. However, there was little between Alonso, Montoya and Fisichella so the gap between McLaren and Renault is perhaps not so big as it would seem at first glance.
Massa did well to finish seventh, very close to Fisichella's pace and a couple of tenths quicker than the Toyotas and Michael's Ferrari. BAR and Williams seemed less than enthusiastic but there were a lot of laps being put in with little change in the positions, so there was a fair amount of work being done.
Overall one would have to say that McLaren looks the strongest so far, with Renault not too far behind. If Raikkonen can keep going without his engine exploding, he may well get the win that was denied him in the last two races. Final top eight classification: Wurz, Raikkonen, Alonso, Montoya, Zonta, Fisichella, Massa, Liuzzi.