Ferrari led the pace at Magny Cours this morning as the practice session for the French Grand Prix got underway. Kimi Raikkonen went fastest going 0.05s faster than his team mate Felipe Massa, who in turn was over 0.5s faster than the McLaren of Fernando Alonso. The current championship leader Lewis Hamilton languished in sixth place, significantly down on what the British driver is used to. However, practice times are just that and many teams take the opportunity to try out different fuel levels and strategies for the actual race on Sunday. Seeing the improvements in the Ferrari’s is significant though, and the recent testing has faired well for the Italian team.
Williams had a good run in the first session, seeing Nico Rosberg finish in fourth, and team mate Alex Wurz in eighth. Again out-pacing the factory Toyota team, who could only manage tenth with Jarno Trulli and seventeenth with the floundering Ralf Schumacher.
Renault appeared to struggle, despite making bold claims recently of improving their car above and beyond the current pace of BMW. Looking at the timing sheet, a different story is painted with Nick Heidfeld finishing the morning session in seventh and Robert Kubica in ninth. The Renault pair could only muster 18th and 19th for Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen respectively.
Practice Session One Times
|5.||David Coulthard||Red Bull Racing||1m16.268s|
|11.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Scuderia Toro Rosso||1m16.895s|
|12.||Takuma Sato||Super Aguri||1m16.967s|
|15.||Scott Speed||Scuderia Toro Rosso||1m17.103s|
|16.||Anthony Davidson||Super Aguri||1m17.166s|
|20.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing||1m17.435s|
The afternoon session saw a major improvement for the small Scuderia Toro Rosso team. Running a seamless shift gear box for the first time this year, the petite outfit rose up the tables and ended Friday in third and fifth. Yes, really, Scott Speed put his Rosso in third, and Vitantonio Liuzzi managed to lap the fifth quickest time. In the other Adrian Newey designed cars – the Red Bulls – David Coulthard continued the morning form and finished in a fine sixth while Mark Webber ended up 16th, but had to pull off the track halfway through.
The STRs pushed some of the teams down a little, with McLaren only setting fourth and eighth quickest, Lewis Hamilton getting the better of Fernando Alonso again. Williams slipped to seventh with Rosberg and thirteenth with Wurz, while Anthony Davidson and Ralf Schumacher improved to ninth and tenth respectively in their Super Aguri and Toyota cars.
Nick Heidfeld finished the day early having aggravated his back injury. The German has been sent to hospital to get checked out and Sebastian Vettel is on standby to race again, just as he did in America a fortnight ago. Both Spykers propped up the timing sheets in both sessions, and somehow managed to go slower in the second than in the first.
Setting the pace though were once again the Ferraris. This time Felipe Massa got the edge on his team mate Kimi Raikkonen, but the pair totally dominated the day sharing fastest laps between them as the pummeled the Magny Cours tarmac for the last time in Formula One cars.
Practice Session Two Times
|3.||Scott Speed||Scuderia Toro Rosso||1m15.773s|
|5.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||Scuderia Toro Rosso||1m15.952s|
|6.||David Coulthard||Red Bull Racing||1m15.958s|
|9.||Anthony Davidson||Super Aguri||1m16.162s|
|16.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing||1m16.562s|
|20.||Takuma Sato||Super Aguri||1m17.165s|