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Webber heads Button in opening session

NEWS STORY
10/07/2009

Ahead of today's opening free practice session the air temperature is 10 degrees C, while the track temperature is 14 degrees. It is cool, to put it mildly, and somewhat overcast. There has been overnight rain, but the track has now fully dried. However, there are ominous dark clouds in the distance.

When the lights go green, it is local hero, and World Championship contender, Sebastian Vettel who leads the way. Sutil, Buemi, Kubica and Piquet follow.

Five minutes into the session all but Hamilton, Alonso, Glock and Barrichello have been out, with Buemi, Kubica and Heidfeld having completed two laps, but no times.

The tyre options this weekend are medium and super-soft.

Barrichello and Alonso finally appear, the Brazilian making a mistake at the NGK Chicane. After ten minutes, only Hamilton and Glock haven't appeared.

Buemi, Fisichella and Kovalainen are back on track as Hamilton, clearly feeling the cold, talks to Martin Whitmarsh at the back of the McLaren garage.

Buemi posts the first time of the weekend, crossing the line at 1:43.315, however, this is quickly eclipsed by Fisichella who crosses the line at 40.674.

Big changes to the Toyota, which is looking more and more like the Red Bull. McLaren is also running some new components, including a new double-diffuser and a new floor, which wasn't due until Hungary.

As Fisichella seeks to improve his time, the first spots of rain begin to fall, the Italian eases off.

Other than the rain, which admittedly is still light, and the cold, the drivers and fans have to contend with strong winds.

Half-an-hour into the session the shower has stopped, and as the rest of the drivers stare at their monitors, Hamilton finally makes an appearance, on intermediates. As the Englishman returns to his pit, having completed his installation lap, Kovalainen, Trulli, Rosberg and Bourdais leave the pits.

No soon has Rosberg gone second, that Trulli posts 39.727 to go quickest. Kovalainen goes fourth ahead of Buemi.

Trulli improves to 37.737 as Kovalainen goes third. However, the Finn is caught out by the new bump that has appeared where the track has been re-surfaced at the end of the pit straight.

As Raikkonen goes third (37.980), Trulli raises the benchmark with a 36.146. Still just seven names on the timesheets.

Approaching half-time, more and more drivers are coming out, but Trulli still tops the timesheets. The Brawn duo, Hamilton and Alonso are among the drivers who have yet to post a time.

As the sun begins to break through, for the first time today the cars are casting shadows on the track.

A 33.838 sees Webber go quickest, as Rosberg goes second, ahead of Trulli, Raikkonen and Nakajima.

Sutil's session appears to be over, the German stopping on the edge of the track at Turn 2. Elsewhere, a 34.617 sees Massa go second. Replay suggests that Sutil suffered a gearbox problem.

Not a great day for Force India, for we understand that earlier this morning the bailiffs called at the team's motorhome, the result of an unpaid catering bill. While the teams sorts out the matter, the bailiffs, and their police escort, are watching the session from the team's motorhome.

Another problem for another German driver as Vettel suffers what appears to be an electrics problem and pulls off track at exactly the same spot as his countryman.

Fisichella goes second (33.860), ahead of Vettel, while Button improves to fifth with a 34.012. Both McLarens at the wrong end of the timesheets, with Hamilton, who has only completed 4 laps, 3.329s off the pace. That said, the World Champion improves to nineteenth with a 35.909.

Button goes second, but remains 0.329s off Webber's pace. The Australian eager to open his Grand Prix winners account. Elsewhere, Hamilton goes seventh with a 34.483.

With fifteen minutes remaining, it's: Webber, Button, Trulli, Raikkonen, Fisichella, Vettel, Massa, Heidfeld, Rosberg and Hamilton. Surprisingly, Barrichello is at the bottom of the timesheets, having completed only 8 laps.

Massa gets it wrong at the NGK Chicane as fellow Brazilian Barrichello fails to improve, the Brawn driver still 2.140s off Webber's pace. A mistake at the chicane doesn't help Barrichello's cause.

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