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Hamilton quickest once the cement dust settles

NEWS STORY
09/06/2007

Ahead of today's sole free practice session, the air temperature is 24 degrees C, and the track temperature is 37 degrees. It is bright and sunny with hardly a cloud in the sky.

Despite the problems encountered in yesterday's second free practice session, when Jarno Trulli suffered two suspension failures, Toyota is taking part today. However, we understand that both drivers have been told to try an avoid hitting the kerbs at Turn 8, the chicane where the Italian suffered his two failures. How this will affect the competitiveness of the Japanese team remains to be seen.

It is still unclear what exactly what wrong other than a problem with the upright, the Cologne-based team is still investigating.

Also, Mark Webber has been reprimanded following his silliness yesterday afternoon, when he is accused of brake-testing Scott Speed. The Australian, a highly vocal spokesman on safety in his role as director with the GPDA, should know better. A lot better.

The lights go green and Schumacher leads the way, followed by Albers, Sato, Trulli, Kubica, Sutil, Davidson, Fisichella, Liuzzi and Kovalainen. Alonso is also eager to get the obligatory installation lap in the bag.

Albers complains of oil on the track which has been covered up with cement dust. Sure enough there are lines of cement dust on a couple of corners.

Eight minutes into the session, only Massa, Raikkonen and Barrichello haven't appeared, while Scott speed is the only driver to have completed two installation laps.

In the stands, instead of the obligatory caps, a couple of Super Aguri fans are wearing traditional Japanese triangular hats. No, we don't know what the proper name is… but they look good. It's great to see fans get into the spirit of things.

Absolutely no activity, until, with twelve minutes of the session gone, Tonio Liuzzi heads down the pitlane.

A wonderful faux pas from Jackie Stewart who is asked about Schumacher's future by a German reporter. "I think Michael still has a wonderful future ahead of him, though whether it's with Ferrari or not I don't know," says the Scot. "No, I meant Ralf," says the reporter. "Oh, sorry," says the wee man.

As Liuzzi posts the benchmark (22.946), Trulli and Schumacher head down the pitlane.

In the Honda garage Jenson Button is told that the team will struggle to complete its scheduled programme, which suggests that the lack of activity could be due to the cement dust on the track. There is quite a bit of it.

As Liuzzi raises the benchmark with a 20.558, Trulli continues to ride the kerbs with total commitment. Elsewhere, Schumacher goes quickest, crossing the line at 19.744. His Toyota teammate goes second (20.017).

As the times tumble, more and more cars take to the track.

Barrichello, sporting what looks like a new helmet design - which looks horrible by the way - goes fifth with 21.161. Meanwhile, the Toro Rossos goes third and fourth, with Liuzzi having the slight edge.

As Rosberg locks up, Raikkonen goes quickest in the first sector. The Finn maintains the pace in the second sector, and despite getting it all wrong at the final chicane goes quickest with an 18.667, edging out Schumacher by one-thousandth of a second.

One of the Spykers has a very, very close encounter with one of the barriers, as Rosberg goes quickest, ahead of Raikkonen, Schumacher and Liuzzi. However, on his next lap the Williams driver gets it all wrong and takes to the grass.

A 16.901 sees Raikkonen re-take the top spot, only to lock up big time at the first corner. Elsewhere, Hamilton has a massive lock-up at the other end of the circuit.

It's a Ferrari 1-2 as Massa goes second (17.119), but Hamilton is still on track, about to begin his first flying lap of the day. The Englishman goes third, 0.975s off the pace, but looking supremely confident.

Another improvement from Raikkonen, who goes quickest in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 16.819. Mark Webber momentarily takes third, only to be demoted to fourth as Hamilton goes quickest with a 16.617.

Albers brushes the wall of champions having been launched off thd ground by the unforgiving kerbs at the final chicane.

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