The favourite for the British Grand Prix is still too close to call after the race’s first two practice sessions – with McLaren and Ferrari both looking extremely competitive on the Silverstone track.
Subdued performances from both Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen allowed their team-mates to share the timesheet-topping honours – but whether either man is holding back a bit of speed for qualifying could prove to be an extremely interesting question.
By contrast, BMW failed to impress during the Friday sessions, with Robert Kubica’s car the first not to break 1:20 in the morning session, and back in 11th place in the afternoon. The gap between this up-and-coming team and the front runners appears to be widening once more.
According to the BBC report on the sessions: “As things stand, it is difficult to pick a favourite for the race – the McLarens are quicker in the high-speed first half of the lap, but the Ferrari more than cancelled out that advantage in the slower corners later on.”
In the first session times at the top of the field were incredibly tight.
Felipe Massa was fastest, producing 1:19.575 from eight laps – despite hitting an oil slick left on the Hangar Straight by Fernando Alonso’s failing Renault, leading him to crash at Stowe at nearly 180mph.
The Ferrari mechanics got to work on his heavily-damaged car and managed to put it back together in time for him to take part in the last half-hour of the second practice session.
Following him was Heikki Kovalainen, just 12/100ths of a second slower, with Lewis Hamilton in third less than a tenth of a second behind Massa.
Kimi Raikkonen in fourth was the second slice of bread in the McLaren sandwich, and the first driver to be significantly off the his colleague’s lap times, coming in more than three-tenths of a second behind Massa.
Robert Kubica in fifth was the first driver not to break 1:20, while Fernando Alonso in sixth came close enough to the BMW star to give his team real hope for the weekend. Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel, Nelson A Piquet and David Coulthard all recorded encouraging times for their teams.
But the session proved to be another discouraging outing for Honda, its cars beset with suspension problems, and Jenson Button barely able to break the 1:22 mark. Rubens Barrichello came last behind the Force India cars with a time of 1:24.123.
In the second session McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen took the honours with a fastest lap of 1:19.989 – and Red Bull’s Mark Webber, obviously inspired by the news that his contract has been renewed for 2009, was a surprise second on 1:20.520.
Third was McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, fourth Red Bull’s David Coulthard and fifth Williams’ Nico Rosberg. Jenson Button was seventh, ahead of both Ferraris – Massa, who nearly missed the session altogether after his earlier accident, was eighth and Raikkonen could do no better than 12th.
Jarno Trulli, fresh from his French podium, was forced into last place after losing his rear wing at Stowe and spinning into the barriers.
Practice 2 times:
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:19.989 (35 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:20.520 (32 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:20.543 (31 laps)
- David Coulthard, Red Bull: 1:20.589 (36 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams 1:20.748 (43 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 1:20.805 (43 laps)
- Jenson Button, Honda: 1:20.929 (39 laps)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:20.943 (18 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:20.985 (18 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 1:21.002 (34 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:21.023 (33 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:21.275 (31 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:21.453 (36 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:21.472 (18 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:21.511 (27 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:21.520 (42 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:21.634 (39 laps)
- Nelson A Piquet, Renault: 1:21.642 (45 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:21.756 (30 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:22.196 (23 laps)
Practice 1 times
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:19.575 (8 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:19.587 (15 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:19.623 (13 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:19.948 (16 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:20.367 (11 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:20.436 (7 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 1:20.588 (18 laps)
- Nelson A Piquet, Renault: 1:20.653 (16 laps)
- David Coulthard, Red Bull: 1:20.698 (16 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:20.744 (27 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:20.892 (10 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:21.102 (22 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:21.107 (18 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:21.166 (17 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:21.265 (22 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:21.282 (21 laps)
- Jenson Button, 1:21.901 (7 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:22.169 (16 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:22.219 (19 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 1:24.123 (4 laps)