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Alonso quickest as rain hits Spa

NEWS STORY
05/09/2008

Ahead of today's second practice session, the air temperature is 17 degrees C, and the track temperature is 16 degrees. It remains overcast and cool, but dry.

Within moments of the green light, there are thirteen cars on track, race control having said that there will be rain within the next thirty minutes.

While Vettel is soon at the top of the timesheets, Hamilton is already on a super-fast lap, going quickest in the first two sectors. The Englishman finally crosses the line at 48.805, 1.7s quicker than the Toro Rosso driver.

A 50.199 sees Raikkonen go second, but almost instantly Coulthard and Bourdais go quicker.

Almost everyone so far has been on the soft (medium) compound, including Massa, who goes second with a 49.177 despite not having been quickest in an single sector. Raikkonen takes third with a 49.328.

"Box! Box!" Kubica is told, "the rain is coming, there fore we need to try new options."

Massa improves with a 49.002, as Alonso goes fourth, edging out Trulli.

On the hillside, the fans start putting on their wet-weather clothing, when it rain at Spa, it rains.

Despite a few drops of rain on the camera lens, Massa continues, joined by Hamilton and Kovalainen. On the pit-wall, Flavio Briatore looks thoroughly p****d off, elsewhere, Barrichello locks-up and gets it all wrong at La Source.

Massa improves to within 0.033s of Hamilton, as Heidfeld goes seventh, ahead of Vettel, Kubica and Coulthard.

Twenty minutes into the session and Trulli declares "it's raining, it's raining". No sooner has the team told the Italian to pit than Mark Webber is off and in the tyre barriers at Rivage.

While light rain continues to fall on the other side of the circuit, a number of drivers continue, what's more, they are on the soft (medium) compound. When Coulthard makes a mistake and is forced to take to the escape road, the remaining drivers opt to head back to the pits and sit it out, Raikkonen being the last to 'give in' to the conditions.

With an hour remaining, the session comes to a halt as the teams wait for conditions to improve. Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso, Vettel, Kovalainen, Trulli, Heidfeld, Kubica and Coulthard.

Bourdais gamely comes out to play after a wait of just a few minutes, but after a few corners he admits that it's a "waste of time".

As the clock ticks, Pat Symonds taps away at the keyboard on the pitwall, perhaps he's entering our nose cone competition, or maybe suggesting a new caption competition.

After more than fifteen minutes of total inactivity, Vettel heads down the pitlane on softs. After a couple of laps, he's completing each sector around 0.5s off the pace, conditions clearly improving.

As the German gets ever closer to his previous pace, Fisichella heads down the pitlane, followed, shortly afterwards, by Sutil and Nakajima.

Finally, the big guns come out, however, on his out lap Raikkonen spins at Pouhon and clouts barrier losing the rear wing. He is able to continuer back to the pits, as is Alonso, who also has a moment. Soon it becomes clear that perhaps conditions weren't as good as drivers thought, Fisichella loses it and spins backwards into the barriers. Thing is, although the track is damp, most of the drivers are on softs.

The session is red flagged as Fisichella's car is removed. However, the replay shows that it might not have been the damp track that caught Fisichella out but oil. Glock is warned that there is "oil or water at Turn 9". The overhead shot suggests that it is a small stream of water running across the track.

Race control announces that the session will resume at 15.10, which leaves us twenty minutes more running, providing there are no more dramas and no more rain.

It isn't long before almost everyone is back in action, with only the 'crashees' - Webber, Raikkonen and Fisichella - remaining in their garages.

A big spin for Piquet, who goes off backwards into the barriers but is able to continue. "Any damage Nelson," asks the crew, "yep," is the ominous response.

Much of the track is dry, however, other parts, particularly the Pouhon section are clearly damp.

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