Hamilton leads the way in opening session


Ahead of today's opening free practice session at the Nurburgring, the air temperature is 20 degrees C, while the track temperature is 24 degrees.

For those of you who haven't been paying attention, Markus Winkelhock is replacing Christijan Albers in the second Spyker, the Dutchman having been dropped for "financial reasons". Though we hear that there is lots more to come regarding the matter.

There has been overnight rain, though the track is now dry. Despite some heavy cloud the sun is attempting to break through. Rain is not expected in this session.

When the lights go green, Winkelhock is first out, followed by his teammate (Sutil), Liuzzi, Sato, Kubica, Davidson and Trulli.

It's the same old story, one-by-one the drivers come out for an installation lap then return to the relative comfort of their garages.

Eight minutes into the session, Alex Wurz is the first driver to post a time, the Austrian crossing the line at 1:36.353. Moments later, Nico Rosberg posts 36.591. It is unusual to see the Williams out this early on a Friday, far less posting times.

Winkelhock and Liuzzi are both back on track, as is Jarno Trulli. Ten minutes into the session, only the Ferraris haven't made an appearance.

As Hamilton sits on the pit-wall, Raikkonen is in the back of the Ferrari garage putting on his helmet.

Winkelhock's first lap is over 4s off the pace, 5s when Trulli raises the benchmark with a 35.448.

Trulli improves with a 34.273, as Schumacher and Davidson begin their first flying laps of the weekend. The German goes sixth (34.985), as Davidson goes seventh, splitting Liuzzi and Winkelhock.

Nick Heidfeld leaves the pits as BMW gets its 'home weekend' underway. The German would dearly love a podium here this weekend.

As Trulli raises the benchmark (34.152), Heidfeld goes third (34.665), the German really jumping the kerbs at the chicane. Next time around the BMW driver improves to second with a 34.411, having gone quickest in the final sector.

Michael Schumacher is in the Ferrari garage, the German having hosted a promotional event at his Kart track on Thursday. Meanwhile, his brother takes the top spot with a 33.907.

Robert Kubica goes fourth (34.354), the BMW looking quite spectacular as it slides around the track. Elsewhere, Kovalainen and Fisichella are on track, as is Hamilton.

The Englishman goes quickest in the first sector, but goes wide in the second sector. Nonetheless, his time (35.215) is good enough for sixth.

Alonso goes quickest in the first sector, as Massa leaves the pits. Moments later there is a curious incident involving the Brazilian and the Spaniard. The Ferrari driver appears to brake test the McLaren at the chicane, causing the World Champion to take to the slip-road. For a short time afterwards they appear to be racing one another until finally the Brazilian eases off and the McLaren heads into the distance. We have a feeling that this won't be the last we hear of the matter. Back in the Ferrari garage, Michael Schumacher allows himself a wry grin.

In the meantime, Hamilton has gone quickest, ahead of Kubica, Schumacher and Heidfeld, but now Raikkonen is on track. The Finn goes third (33.781), as Hamilton gets all out of shape, and Massa remains eighth (34.675).

As the Spyker crew work on Sutil's car - the German being the only driver yet to post a time - Alonso goes fourth with a 33.792.

Scott Speed complains of understeer and "locking" in the slow corners, as he and his Toro Rosso remain over 2.5s off Hamilton's pace.

Massa is really throwing the F2007 around, though he remains eighth, just over a second off the pace.

Finally on track, Sutil posts 38.343 to go twenty-first, just over 2s off the pace of the next slowest car (Davidson).

As Massa improves to fifth (33.832), Kubica complains of "quite a lot of understeer and graining, particularly at corners 2, 6 and 11". Back on track, his teammate makes minor improvement to take eighth.

The yellow flags come out as Winkelhock spins after getting all crossed up. . Moments later, the German is back on track, pointing in the right direction.

At 'half-time', it's: Hamilton, Heidfeld, Kubica, Raikkonen, Alonso, Massa, Schumacher, Trulli, Kovalainen and Sato. The top seven are covered by less than a second.

Kubica sets personal best in all three sectors to consolidate third, the Pole crossing the line at 33.549, just 0.400s off Hamilton's pace.

Fisichella goes off and into the gravel, however, he's able to continue. The Italian is currently eighteenth, 2.339s off the pace.

Winkelhock has completed the most laps (19), ahead of Davidson, Liuzzi, Sato, Wurz, Rosberg and Trulli (all 18). Hamilton is quickest through the speed-trap, ahead of Fisichella, Kovalainen, Raikkonen and Alonso.

Alonso improves to third (33.504), splitting the BMWs, though Kubica is already on a hot lap, having gone quickest in the first sector. At the second split the Pole is 0.035s up on Hamilton, finally crossing the line at 33.205 to go second. On the pit-wall Willy Rampf looks pleased.

The grin broadens when Heidfeld goes second, the German just 0.027s down on Hamilton.

Behind the McLarens, BMWs and Ferraris that comprise the top six - as they have for much of the season - Toyota is currently 'best of the rest', ahead of Coulthard, Button, Rosberg, Barrichello, Webber, Liuzzi, Kovalainen, Sato, Davidson, Fisichella, Speed and the Spykers.

With seventeen minutes remaining some of the drivers are switching to the softer option tyres, Sato being one of the first.

Thirteen minutes remaining and Alonso heads down the pitlane, his McLaren fitted with a fresh set of the softer tyres. One-by-one his rivals leave their garages.

Raikkonen goes quickest in the first sector, and again in the second. At the line the Finn posts 32.751, taking almost 0.4s off Hamilton. However, Heidfeld is on a hot lap, as are Alonso and Fisichella.

The German goes second but is immediately bumped down by the Spaniard, who goes second with a 32.932. However, all eyes are on Hamilton, who by the second split is 0.199s up on Raikkonen. At the line the English youngster posts 32.515, to re-take the top spot.

Massa goes wide and messes up his lap, he slows down, appearing to 'save it' for his next lap.

Alex Wurz sets personal bests in the first two sectors, crossing the line at 34.345 to go tenth. Meanwhile, Massa is having great difficulty improving on sixth, where he remains just over a second off the pace.

Barrichello improves from thirteenth to ninth, splitting Coulthard and Trulli. Moments later, teammate Jenson Button improves to eighth (33.936).

Hamilton is back on track on new softs. The Englishman has time for one final hot lap. That said, he doesn't go for a time, he merely appears to want to scrub the tyres in preparation for another session.

Nonetheless, the session ends with the Englishman atop the timesheets, ahead of Raikkonen, Alonso, Heidfeld, Kubica, Massa, Schumacher, Button, Coulthard and Barrichello.

Early days, far too early to call, however, it will be interesting to see if we hear anything further regarding the Massa/Alonso incident.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 20/07/2007
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