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Hamilton sets the pace in Free 1

NEWS STORY
17/10/2008

Ahead of today's first free practice session, the air temperature is 24 degrees C, while the track temperature is 23 degrees. While overcast, the sun is trying to break through and there is no threat of rain. Humidity is 70 per cent.

The lights go green, and as ever the Force Indias lead the way, followed by Hamilton, Bourdais, Piquet and Heidfeld.

Four minutes into the session, all but Barrichello and the Ferraris have made an appearance, as Button is the first driver to begin a second lap, though he dives into the pits at the end of it.

Seven minutes into the session, Barrichello leaves the pits, leaving the Ferraris as the only 'no shows'. In the McLaren garage Heikki Kovalainen chats with his father.

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

There follows the usual period of total inactivity, as the teams and drivers wait for someone, anyone, to break the deadlock. An engine fires up, but then goes silent. As Hamilton chats with his crew, Robert Kubica looks as though he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Sitting in his Toyota, Jarno Trulli adjusts his watch.

Eighteen minutes into the session, Bourdais is back on track. The Frenchman has warned Toro Rosso not to leave him in limbo regarding 2009 for too long otherwise he will make the decision for them. He's definitely improved as the season has progressed, and will have every right to feel bitter about last week.

The Frenchman posts the first time of the weekend, crossing the line at 1:39.496. As Massa watches from the Ferrari garage, looking unimpressed and wearing the biggest watch you ever saw, Piquet heads down the pitlane.

Bourdais improves with a 38.547, as Kimi Raikkonen is strapped into his Ferrari. Piquet posts 40.710 as Bourdais improves with a 37.958. Rosberg, Trulli and Glock head down the pitlane.

Rosberg is pushing, however, the Williams looks a real handful, slipping and sliding around. Nonetheless, he goes second with a 38.709, ahead of Piquet and Glock.

Next time around, the German fails to improve, as Bourdais (37.101) continues to raise the benchmark little by little.

As Piquet goes second with a 38.058, Raikkonen heads out of the Ferrari garage.

Webber goes third (38.103), ahead of Button, Glock, Barrichello, Trulli and Rosberg. However, moments later, the Australian is demoted to fourth when Raikkonen goes second with 37.298. Elsewhere, Vettel and Kovalainen leave the pits.

Webber improves to third again (37.778), as Raikkonen goes quickest with a 36.625. However, moments later the Finn spins off, rejoining behind his Brazilian teammate. Hamilton is also on track, indeed, there are 19 drivers on track.

As Kovalainen goes quickest in the first sector, Bourdais complains that the track is greasy and that "like Magny Cours" he is struggling for grip in the fast corners.

Kovalainen goes second with a 36.977, and Hamilton fourth (37.350), as Massa can only manage nineteenth (41.627).

A 37.252 sees Alonso go fourth, ahead of Hamilton. Clearly spurred on by a banner in the stands which reads 'Kung Fu Kova', Heikki goes quickest with a 36.581. Moments later, however, Massa takes the top spot with a 36.368.

Hamilton goes quickest in the second sector, but then gets it wrong and goes well wide, making another mistake a couple of corners later.

As Raikkonen re-takes the top spot (36.257), both McLaren drivers are on hot laps. Kovalainen goes quickest (36.103), only to be leapfrogged by his English teammate moments later, who crosses the line at 36.044.

BMW continues with its usual Friday programme, looking for consistency as opposed to pace. That said, Kubica is seventh (37.185).

Nakajima admits that he is struggling for grip, and is also suffering understeer.

At half-time, it's: Hamilton, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Massa, Alonso, Bourdais, Kubica, Vettel, Webber and Heidfeld. That said, Kubica moves up to sixth with a 37.055, the BMW really riding the kerbs. Next time around, the Pole improves to fifth (36.507).

Early days, but both Toyotas are over 2s off the pace. The Williams drivers also appear to be struggling. Other than that, it's the usual suspects, Force India and Honda.

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