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Alonso quickest in final session

NEWS STORY
13/03/2010

This morning, certainly in the final ten or fifteen minutes, we should get a better idea of the current order of things as the teams prepare for this afternoon's all important qualifying session.

As expected, the 'big four' - McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull - have the edge, even though the Austrian team's reliability is suspect and the Maranello outfit was looking for laps as opposed to times yesterday.

If the battle between these four is intriguing, so is the fight for supremacy in 'Division 2', where Williams, Renault, Sauber, Force India and Toro Rosso are all holding their own.

Of the three new teams, they were predictably off the pace yesterday, with Karun Chandhok failing to complete a single lap. If he is to take part in this afternoon's qualifying session the Indian must complete at least a couple of laps this morning.

The big concern thus far is tyres, and suddenly those that predicted that Lewis Hamilton would leave Jenson Button for dust are having second thoughts. The 2009 champion's ultra smooth driving style - much like the legendary Alain Prost - could reap dividends here and throughout the season.

While Nico Rosberg had the edge at Mercedes, it is amusing to see the British media raising concerns that Michael Schumacher is past it. In session two yesterday he completed the same number of laps and finished third, just 0.494s behind his teammate. We should all be so "rusty".

Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 32 degrees C, while the track temperature is 42 degrees.

The lights go green and Tonio Liuzzi leads the way, followed by Sutil, Buemi, Trulli and Alguersuari. Alonso and Massa are also among the first to go out, Schumacher also.

Six minutes into the session, Button comes out for his installation lap, leaving Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, Chandhok, Senna and di Grassi as the only drivers yet to make an appearance.

Twelve minutes into the session - with no times yet posted - the Red Bulls head down the pitlane, leaving the HRTs as the only cars yet to run.

Though they are almost the last to run the Red Bull duo look set to post the first times of the day, both drivers continuing for a second lap. Buemi also back on track.

Vettel crosses the line at 55.178 followed, moments later, by Webber who posts 56.302. Elsewhere, Lucas di Grassi doesn't have second gear.

It looks ominous for Chandhok, the Indian reveals that at the very last minute his team discovered a hydraulic problem. The youngster is clearly frustrated.

More and more drivers pour on to the track, indeed, all but the Force Indias and HRTs are in action.

Webber improves with a 55.825 as Alguersuari goes send and Buemi third. A mistake sees Alonso lose a heap of time, the Spaniard posting 2:07.642.

The front left wheel falls from Glock's Virgin, but thankfully it bounces off into the run off area, Senna, who is running behind, is able to avoid it. Yesterday we saw the Brazilian lose a wheel nut in the final moments of the second session.

Alonso has gone quickest (55.105) but he is soon eclipsed by his teammate (54.761), as Vettel drops to third ahead of Schumacher, Rosberg, Webber and Button.

A 54.845 sees Rosberg go second, as the FIA's Jo Bauer visit the Virgin pit, clearly unhappy about the wheel incident and the fact that Glock continued back to the pits.

At half-time, it's: Massa, Rosberg, Alonso, Vettel, Schumacher, Button, Webber, Hamilton, de la Rosa and Alguersuari. Still no times from Liuzzi, Sutil, Kubica, di Grassi, Senna or Chandhok.

The Virgin wheel problem has been traced to the wheelgun which simply didn't tighten the wheel nut enough. Fair enough, but this is the latest in a series of worrying failures for the team.

Kubica posts 55.928 to go eighth, at which point the live timing system fails. Cars that are shown as being in the pits can be seen quite clearly out on track.

While the timing system tells us that Lewis Hamilton is out on track and looking set to improve, the reality is that his session is over following a problem with the left-front brake duct on his car. This means that the Englishman will not be able to complete a low fuel qualifying run before this afternoon's session.

With ten minutes remaining, as Alonso becomes the first driver to complete a low qualifying run - crossing the line at 54.099 - the timing system gets its arse into gear. Just in time.

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