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Heidfeld quickest in final practice

NEWS STORY
18/10/2008

Ahead of today's sole free practice session, the air temperature is 26 degrees C, while the track temperature is 26 degrees C. There was a little overnight rain, but nothing of any real significance and the track is now completely dry. It is sunny, though with a fair amount of cloud, and no rain expected within the next hour. However, there is a good chance that it will rain this afternoon during qualifying and tomorrow for the race.

As ever, once the lights turn to green, it is Fisichella and Sutil who get things underway, however, there are sixteen other drivers to keep them company, indeed, everyone bar the Ferraris.

While the rest return to the pits, having completed an installation lap, Nakajima and Rosberg stay out. Neither posts a time, opting to drive into the pits at the end of their first and second laps to perform a practice start at the end of the pitlane.

There follows a lull of several minutes until Alonso breaks the deadlock and heads down the pitlane. The tyre options this weekend are hard and medium, though we will refer to them as hard (hard) and soft (medium).

As the Spaniard (hards) begins his first flying lap, he is joined on track by Sutil, Trulli, Glock and Piquet. The two-time World Champion posts the first time of the day, crossing the line at 1:38.477. Yesterday, only one driver broke into the 1:35s - in both sessions - and that was Lewis Hamilton.

A 37.692 sees Piquet (softs) go quickest, as Alonso improves with a 38.400. Glock splits the Renault duo with a 37.913.

Kovalainen is on track, as are the Ferraris. Hamilton, Bourdais and Heidfeld are the only drivers not on track.

Kovalainen posts 41.326 to go eighth, while a mistake on his second lap sees him fail to improve. Piquet improves to 37.349, while Raikkonen posts 38.008 to go third.

Glock posts 37.294, as Coulthard goes third and Massa thirteenth (43.906). Elsewhere, Kovalainen goes quickest in the first sector, eventually crossing the line at 37.079 to go quickest.

As Rosberg goes fourth (37.477), Hamilton (hards) goes quickest in the first sector. The Englishman loses a little ground in the second sector, but nonetheless goes quickest with a 37.077.

Having gone quickest in the final sector, Massa (hards) goes quickest with a 36.983, only to be leapfrogged by Bourdais (hards) moments later with a 36.860.

Bourdais improves (36.732), but so does Hamilton, who re-takes the top spot with a 36.669, having gone quickest in the first sector only. Alonso, looking a little ragged, can only manage nineteenth (38.400).

Oh dear, Hamilton really doesn't like the pitlane entrance here. He enters the pitlane too quickly and dives down the escape road, somehow avoiding the notorious gravel trap where he got caught out last year. On the pit wall, Ron Dennis looks far from impressed. No big deal now, but should that happen in the race…

From out of nowhere, Barrichello - yes, Barrichello in a Honda - goes third with a 36.923, having gone quickest in the second sector.

At half-time, it's: Hamilton, Bourdais, Barrichello, Massa, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Coulthard, Glock, Vettel and Piquet.

On board with Piquet (hards) the Renault looks a little 'lively', certainly in the Brazilian's hands. Nonetheless, he improves to seventh.

Most of the drivers feel their cars feel better than yesterday, even Bourdais and Kubica, both notorious when it comes to complaining.

Kovalainen (hards) is back on track, the Finn immediately going quickest in the first sector. He's quickest again in the second, 0.174s up on his teammate, eventually crossing the line at 36.587 to take the top spot.

Next time around, Kovalainen improves with a 36.571, despite not having gone quickest in any of the sectors. Moments later, however, he is dropped to second by his teammate, who posts 36.416, having gone quickest in the final sector.

Raikkonen (hards) posts personal bests in the first and final sectors, but still fails to improve on twelfth.

It's business as usual in the BMW garage, where Kubica complains that "traction is getting worse and worse". Meanwhile, Webber suffers a major engine failure, which leaves the track covered in a cloud of thick white smoke. Having already played his joker, the Australian will suffer a grid penalty for tomorrow's race, more bad luck for the Red Bull team.

With less than ten minutes remaining, the BMWs are fourteenth and fifteenth, only just behind Raikkonen. Which suggests that the German team is looking at strategy as opposed to pace, unusual for a Saturday.

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