Last gasp Alonso does it again


Ahead of today's sole free practice session, the air temperature is 20 degrees C, while the track temperature is 28 degrees. It remains unseasonable cool, to put it mildly, though not quite as cool as yesterday, and overcast.

Following yesterday's session, a lot has been written about Lewis Hamilton's relative lack of pace. However, let's not forget that with a seven-point advantage he doesn't have to win here this weekend. Indeed, unless he can take pole and guarantee that he will get clean away ahead of the pack, he might be better qualifying at the very back, the first corner here is notorious.

The helmet camera that David Coulthard is using is superb, but it is impossible to make head or tell of what he is saying to his crew over the radio, the sound quality is so poor it might as well be an announcement on the London Underground.

All but the Ferraris come out for an installation lap. Five minutes into the session, with nothing really happening, the cameras concentrate on a couple of the Red Bull Formula Unas. Could someone please inform us why these girls are always giggling and grinning and taking pictures of one another. Happy slappers?

In the Ferrari garage, Felipe Massa poses for a team photograph with his crew. Maybe they know something we don't. Kimi Raikkonen doesn't join in.

Fisichella is back on track, the Italian complaining of "zero grip" yesterday. The Force India posts the first time of the day, though it is a disappointing 1:21.255.

As Fisichella improves to 19.243, Sutil, Piquet and Glock head down the pitlane.

Tyre options this weekend are medium and soft.

Fisichella was right about "zero grip", Sutil goes 5s quicker, crossing the line at 14.207, while Glock goes even quicker, as well he might, with a 13.982.

"The first few laps will be a bit slow," Piquet tells his crew, who advise him that he use more rear grip bias should he feel he needs it. Despite his warning, the Brazilian goes second with a 13.817 before improving with 13.154. Heidfeld goes second.

Coulthard and Raikkonen head down the pitlane as Barrichello goes second with a 13.290. The Brazilian's helmet is still sporting the colours of Ingo Hoffmann, a long-standing friend of the Honda driver since he gave him his first helmet when he was just seven years old.

As Piquet improves with a 12.954, Raikkonen is on a hot lap, the Finn eventually crossing the line at 12.881.

A 12.555 sees Kovalainen goes quickest, but teammate Hamilton is already on a hot lap, as Massa finally decides to get to work. As the Brazilian leaves the pits he is cheered by the partisan crowd.

A poor final sector sees Hamilton go sixteenth of sixteenth. However, on his next lap he goes quickest in the first sector, and again in the second. The McLaren driver crosses the line at 12.278, beating his teammate by 0.277.

On his first flying lap, Massa posts 12.427 to go second, as Webber goes fifth, ahead of Bourdais and Vettel. Replay shows Hamilton and Massa both getting well out of shape, consequently they both fail to improve next time around.

McLaren, Ferrari, McLaren, Ferrari, it doesn't get much better than that. All we need now is Alonso and Kubica up there to join in the fun. However, the Spaniard is currently twelfth and the Pole fourteenth.

Back on board with Coulthard and his helmet camera, it amazing that they've taken so long to get round to this in F1.

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

Kubica posts a personal best in the first sector, the Pole seeking to improve on fourteenth. No sign of the softer option tyre thus far. BMW was the busiest team here yesterday.

Kovalainen posts a personal best in the first sector, however he fails to maintain the pace, and like Kubica doesn't improve.

As Alonso seeks to improve on twelfth, Hamilton is back on track. The Englishman immediately goes quickest in the first sector. He loses time in the second sector, getting it wrong at Turn 8, and consequently fails to improve.

Kubica complains that although his car has "calmed down" there is still a lot of understeer and he's having problems.

Massa is back on track, and posts a personal best in the first sector. Still no sign of the softer option.

With fifteen minutes to go, the sun is shining. However, while it is expected to remain dry today, heavy rain, indeed, thunderstorms, are expected tomorrow.

As the Formula Unas wave to the camera - don't they always - it's worth noting that the top twelve are covered by 0.969s.

Having improved to tenth, Trulli is now looking to close the gap to the leaders. The same goes for Kubica (fifteenth) who is now back on track.

With seven minutes remaining, only Kubica and Barrichello are on track.

Webber heads down the pitlane, no doubt signalling the start of the final assault. Moments later, Kovalainen follows the Australian, who is on the softer compound.

Webber posts a personal best in the first sector, and by the second he is just 0.038s down on Hamilton. He crosses the line at 12.453 to go third, which is the signal for the rest of the field to leave the pits, most shod with the softer rubber.

Hamilton goes quickest in the first sector, as teammate Kovalainen takes the top spot with a 12.225. The Englishman crosses the line at 12.212 to re-take the top spot.

From out of nowhere, Rosberg produces 12.625 to go sixth, as Bourdais goes third with a 12.246.

Despite a strong second sector, Massa can only manage 12.312, which puts him third, Piquet goes sixth and Raikkonen eighth.

All eyes on Alonso, who posts a personal best in the first sector. The Spaniard goes quickest in the second sector, finally crossing the line at 12.141 to beat Hamilton by 0.071. In a similarly late charge, Heidfeld goes sixth (12.402) while Raikkonen slips down to twelfth.

The final free practice session of 2008, sees Alonso quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Kovalainen, Massa, Vettel, Heidfeld, Bourdais, Webber, Piquet and Trulli.

Rosberg is eleventh, ahead of Raikkonen, Glock, Kubica, Nakajima, Coulthard, Barrichello, Button, Fisichella and Sutil.

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    Published: 01/11/2008
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