Felipe Massa got his bid to secure the 2008 drivers’ and constructors’ world championships off to a strong start today after topping the unofficial timesheets in one practice session and coming second in the other.
Lewis Hamilton, by contrast, had to settle for a subdued ninth place in the afternoon after coming within two-tenths of a second of his rival in the morning.
Meanwhile Renault’s Fernando Alonso did his utmost to spoil the party for the championship rivals, topping the second session timesheet with the day’s fastest lap. All eyes will now turn towards his qualifying performance.
Kimi Raikkonen also performed strongly, grabbing third in the first session and fourth in the second, behind Jarno Trulli who shook off his flu to mount a late challenge.
David Coulthard, in his final grand prix weekend, improved from 18th to 11th between the two sessions, while Jenson Button dropped from 15th to 18th.
Speaking after the session, Massa said: “It might only be Friday, but it’s important to get off to a good start on such an important weekend. We found a good set-up for the car, which seemed to be well balanced in both sessions.
“The track here offers a lot of grip and so, even with today’s low temperatures, that was not a problem, especially given the tyres we have available to us here. My aim? To be in front of everyone, both tomorrow and on Sunday.
“Then we can do the maths when it’s over. Racing at home, with the crowd on your side is a great motivation for me: it’s a fantastic feeling, but difficult to put it into words.”
Hamilton admitted that unpredictable weather and late braking marred his second session, but reiterated his faith in his McLaren car: “Our car was blindingly quick this morning despite the cold weather, which made the track feel quite slippery.
“This afternoon we focused on our race pace – but we were interrupted by the threat of rain and the changeable wind direction. I flat-spotted my tyres on a couple of runs, but I’m positive that the changes we’ve made will put us in a good position for tomorrow.”
Elsewhere David Coulthard confirmed that changeable conditions had been a problem for him too: “It was spitting with rain in the second session, so we took the decision to run a fresh set of tyres early on, just in case it rained towards the end.
“We haven’t achieved the ultimate lap time, but I think we made progress during the day to stabilise the car.”
And Jenson Button was as philosophical as ever: “It’s been a busy day and the conditions have provided some challenges with light rain in both sessions. Our main focus was trying to get the option tyres to work.
“Everyone seems to be having a problem with graining on the options so we tried various things to improve their performance over one lap and the long runs.
“I had an electrical problem this morning which cost me some time and set-up work, however with the information that we gathered this afternoon, we have plenty of data to help us move forward before tomorrow.”
Session two times:
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:12.296 (43 laps)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:12.353 (41 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:12.435 (44 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:12.600 (32 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:12.650 (45 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 1:12.687 (47 laps)
- Nelson A Piquet, Renault: 1:12.703 (44 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:12.761 (42 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:12.827 (33 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:12.886 (42 laps)
- David Coulthard, Red Bull: 1:12.896 (38 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:12.971 (48 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:13.038 (49 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:13.041 (39 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:13.213 (37 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 1:13.221 (39 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:13.273 (41 laps)
- Jenson Button, Honda: 1:13.341 (49 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:13.428 (32 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:13.691 (33 laps)
Session one times:
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:12.305 (24 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:12.495 (23 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:12.507 (12 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:12.874 (24 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:12.925 (20 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:13.061 (25 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:13.298 (24 laps)
- Nelson A Piquet, Renault: 1:13.378 (39 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:13.426 (28 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:13.466 (33 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:13.600 (24 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:13.621 (23 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:13.649 (30 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 1:13.676 (28 laps)
- Jenson Button, Honda: 1:13.766 (13 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:13.806 (24 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 1:13.836 (30 laps)
- David Coulthard, Red Bull: 1:13.861 (19 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:14.704 (21 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:14.821 (21 laps)