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Massa quickest despite crashing out on Alonso's oil

NEWS STORY
04/07/2008

Ahead of this morning's free practice session, the air temperature is 17 degrees C, while the track temperature is 18 degrees. While it is cool, it is at least dry, with the sun actually shining, if only on a small portion of the Northamptonshire track.

The lights go green, and as ever, the Force Indias lead the way, followed by Heidfeld, Piquet, Bourdais and Vettel. Amongst the 'early risers' is Lewis Hamilton, along with teammate Heikki Kovalainen. Both need a good result this weekend.

Once most of the runners have been out for their installation lap, there follows the 'obligatory' period of waiting. That said, with all the teams testing here last week, this session was never expected to be 'action packed'. After fifteen minutes, all but Glock and the Ferraris have been out.

Seventeen minutes into the session, Vettel heads back down the pitlane. While the rest look on, the German posts 1:22.972, before returning to his garage.

Twenty-four minutes into the session, Sutil and Nakajima get to work. The Japanese driver goes second to Vettel with a 24.503.

Gradually, more and more drivers come out to play, and soon the order is Trulli, Nakajima, Sutil, Fisichella and Rosberg.

Despite a 'moment', Glock goes quickest in the second sector, finally crossing the line at 21.579 to go quickest, making it a Toyota 1-2.

'Muscles' Button prepares to go out, as Raikkonen heads down the pitlane, the Finn, as has become the norm, competing an installation lap before going for a time. The Ferrari crosses the line at 21.089, the World Champion immediately going quickest in the first sector of his next lap.

As Raikkonen improves to 19.948, Kovalainen goes quickest in the second sector, finally crossing the line at 19.919 to take the top spot. Moments later it's a McLaren 1-2 as Hamilton posts 19.916.

The crowd waves as David Coulthard begins his first flying lap of the day, the Scot having announced yesterday that he is to retire at the end of the season. The Scot goes twelfth, crossing the line at 21.966.

At half -time, it's: Kovalainen, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vettel, Piquet, Webber, Glock, Bourdais, Trulli and Heidfeld. Kubica, Alonso and Massa yet to post a time.

When Kubica does finally come out, his first flying lap i9s ruined by another driver about to post his first time of the day, Ferrari's Felipe Massa. Indeed, Fernando Alonso is also on track.

Massa goes fourth 20.199), Kubica seventh (20.694) and Alonso ninth (20.801), which means all twenty drivers have now posted times.

Next time around, however, the Brazilian goes quickest (19.575), the Ferrari driver clearly to build on his Magny-Cours success. Meanwhile, Kubica improves to fifth and Alonso sixth.

The tyre options here this weekend are hard and medium, which henceforth we will refer to as hard and soft.

It's all over for Alonso who pulls off track at Vale after encountering an engine problem. Moments later, Glock goes wide at Chapel, however, attention quickly focuses on Massa who crashes heavily backwards into the barriers, having lost it at Stowe on oil dropped by Alonso. The session is red-flagged.

Massa climbs out of the car, unharmed, which is more than you can say for the rear end of his car. He chats with Alonso before the two head back down to the pits in a recovery vehicle.

Stowe, of course, is where Michael Schumacher had his infamous accident on the first lap of the 1999 British GP.

A slight difference of opinion between Kubica and his crew. The Pole is told to go out as soon as the all-clear is given, but reminded that there will be white powder - not the Nigel Stepney kind - where Alonso dropped oil. "No," says the Pole, "why waste my tyres, let the others clean it up!"

As the marshals clean the track and rebuild the tyre wall, the order is: Massa, Kovalainen, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kubica, Alonso, Vettel, Piquet, Coulthard and Webber.

With just over fourteen minutes remaining, the lights go green. Fisichella, who crashed here during testing last week, is first out.

We've seen little of the soft tyres thus far, and what with the white powder on the track it is unlikely that we'll see them until this afternoon's session.

Raikkonen is on track, however, his first flying lap is over 2s off the pace. The white powder is right on the racing line, as perfectly demonstrated by Hamilton, who kicks up a great cloud of the stuff.

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