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Raikkonen leads the way as conditions improve

NEWS STORY
12/09/2008

Ahead of this afternoon's free practice session, the air temperature is 21 degrees C, and the track temperature is 24 degrees. Hard to believe, but following this morning's monsoon-like conditions, the sun is shining and there's even a heat haze as the cars head down the pitlane. That said, the session has still been declared wet.

Kovalainen is first out, the McLaren shod with intermediates. The Finn is warned that there's "oil or something at Turn 8". As the Finn begins his first flying lap of the day, Race Control announces that no rain is expected in the first twenty minutes of the session.

The big news this morning is that other than Red Bull opting to change Mark Webber's engine, Kimi Raikkonen has signed a new deal with Ferrari, keeping him at Maranello until 2010. This will end any hopes of Fernando Alonso joining the Italian outfit.

Just five minutes into the session, there are six names on the timesheets, with Rosberg (1:36.296) leading the way. Within moments however, it is Bourdais who leads the way, followed by Webber and Vettel.

A 35.010 sees Kovalainen go second to Bourdais, as the Frenchman posts 34.819.

Raikkonen goes fifth with a 35.382, as Kovalainen re-takes the top spot with a 34.008.

On his first flying lap, Massa goes fifth, crossing the line at 1:34.390. Teammate Raikkonen goes quickest (33.021).

There are still quite a few damp patches, able demonstrated as Vettel gets the second chicane all wrong having gone quickest in the first sector.

Raikkonen improves with a 32.231, as Barrichello gets it all wrong at the first chicane. Massa seeks to improve on fifth, posting a personal best in the first sector. The Brazilian goes third with a 33.130, watched on by Michael Schumacher, who is on the pit-wall.

Despite good pace in the first two sectors, Rosberg fails to improve on tenth, having lost time in the Parabolica.

Despite the initial flurry of activity, after half-an-hour there are only twelve names on the timesheets, Lewis Hamilton, looking relaxed at the back of the McLaren garage, like Alonso, Kubica and several other, still to post a time.

A 32.082 sees Bourdais go quickest, the Frenchman, and indeed Toro Rosso, appearing to continue where it left off at Spa. Teammate Sebastian Vettel is third, however, on his next lap he goes quickest in the first sector, and again in the second. At the line it's 1:30.638, the German goes quickest, nudging out Glock who topped the timesheets for all of three seconds.

Bourdais tells his crew that it is still damp at the second Lesmo and Ascari, with a strip of water across the track at Parabolica.

Jenson Button goes quickest with a 29.716, ahead of Vettel, Rosberg, Piquet and Webber, as the timesheets continually change. Indeed, Vettel re-takes the top spot with a 28.409. Next time around, the Toro Rosso driver improves with a 27.607, at which point Hamilton heads down the pitlane.

On his first flying lap, the McLaren driver posts 31.182, which puts him eighth on the timesheets. Elsewhere, Mass goes fifth with a 29.474.

Next time around, Hamilton goes second, having gone quickest in the second sector. As he seeks to improve, Massa also appears set to leap up the timesheet.

Hamilton takes the top spot with a 26.621, having gone quickest in all three sectors. Massa improves to fourth, 1.43s off the World Championship leader's pace.

At 'half-time', all twenty drivers have posted a time. Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Vettel, Webber, Massa and Button. Moments later, Massa and Kovalainen both improve to go second and third, while Kubica goes sixth.

As Hamilton consolidates his top spot with a 25.908, the FIA announces that McLaren's appeal against his Spa penalty will take place on Monday September 22, a few days before the Singapore GP.

No sooner has Kubica improves to second than both Ferraris also improve, Raikkonen going quickest with a 25.836, as Massa takes third with a 26.345. Next time around it is the Brazilian who takes the top spot, giving Ferrari a 1-2 on home soil.

With thirty-five minutes remaining, Kubica takes the top spot with a 25.101. Elsewhere, Alonso goes fifth, ahead of Bourdais, Sutil, Kovalainen and Rosberg.

Kubica gets it wrong at the first chicane, spinning his BMW 180 degrees, and almost collecting a Toyota. Meanwhile, Vettel goes quickest in the second sector, finally crossing the line at 25.389 to go second.

A 25.831 sees Kovalainen improve to sixth, one place ahead of his McLaren teammate.

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