Kubica leads the way in opening session

26/03/2010
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's opening free practice session, the air temperature is 25 degrees C, while the track temperature is 35 degrees. It is bright and sunny.

Paul di Resta is in action for Force India this morning, The Silverstone-based outfit opting to give the Scot his F1 GP weekend debut. Adrian Sutil will sit out the session while Tonio Liuzzi drives the second car.

The lights go green and Trulli leads the way, followed by Liuzzi, Buemi, Kovalainen and di Resta.

Having missed all three practice sessions in Bahrain, Karun Chandhok sits patiently in the HRT as teammate Bruno Senna heads down the pitlane.

Webber is the first of the big guns to take to the track, the Red Bull driver being tipped as a potential winner of his home race this weekend having finally opened his win account last year at the Nurburgring.

Five minutes into the session all but Schumacher have been out for an installation lap, yes, even Chandhok.

Following McLaren's introduction of a device - now known as the F-duct in Bahrain, Sauber is running a prototype version with Red Bull and Mercedes also looking at the possibility of running a similar system in the not too distant future.

The F-duct alters the air flow to the rear wing, stalling the air to reduce drag and thereby increase top speed. The McLaren drivers are believed to operate the system inside the cockpit by using their left knee.

Meanwhile, since Bahrain the FIA has ordered a couple of teams, including Red Bull and McLaren, to reduce the size of the hole in their diffusers ostensibly meant to accommodate the starter motor, but in reality a cunning means of creating more downforce.

Once Schumacher has completed his installation lap there is the usual period of total inactivity bar drivers chatting and joking with their crew.

Twenty minutes into the session, Senna breaks the deadlock, the Brazilian's HRT throwing up a shower of sparks as the skidplate meets the bumps of Albert Park. He crosses the line at 1:39.329, going 0.845s quicker in the first sector of his next lap. At the second split he's 1.62 to the good, finally crossing the line at 37.989.

As Senna returns to the pits, di Grassi heads out of the Virgin garage, with a little assistance from his crew, the pitlane worryingly narrow at his end. Moments later, the Brazilian is joined by Chandhok.

Di Grassi's first lap sees the Virgin driver post 40.581 while Chandhok - on his first ever F1 practice lap goes quickest with a 37.978. Hamilton, Kovalainen, di Resta and Petrov are now on track.

A 36.810 sees Kovalainen go quickest, however, this is soon beaten by his former teammate, Hamilton posting a 30.076, despite losing time behind Petrov in the final sector. di Resta goes second with a 33.765, as Petrov posts 34.389 to go third.

Hulkenberg, who was disappointing in Bahrain, is now on track, as Kobayashi and de la Rosa make it a Sauber 2-3. Meanwhile, Hamilton raises the benchmark with a 28.680.

Kobayashi goes off at Turn 12, after losing his front wing when colliding with a marker cone. Elsewhere, Schumacher goes second with a 30.734.

The session is red flagged as the debris from Kobayashi's car is cleared from the track.

After 43 minutes, it's: Hamilton, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Petrov, de la Rosa, di Resta, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Chandhok and Kovalainen.

When the session resumes Rosberg, Webber, Vettel, Kubica, Button and Barrichello are the first out.

Webber's first lap sees the Australian go fifth (32.331), only to be demoted by his teammate who crosses the line at 32.188. Moments later, both are demoted when Kubica goes second with a 29.886.

Rosberg goes second with a 29.278 as Vettel and Webber go third and fourth, only to be demoted when Button goes third with a 29.541.

Rosberg improves again, this time going quickest with a 28.357, however, moments later Button goes quickest in all three sectors finally crossing the line at 27.798.

With thirty-seven minutes remaining, the action is really hotting up, Rosberg goes quickest with a 27.659 as Hamilton improves with a 27.793.

Alonso is the first of the Ferrari duo to post a time, the Spaniard crossing the line at 29.603. Next time around, despite losing time behind Alguersuari, he improves with a 29.173.

Button re-takes the top spot with a 27.482 as Massa goes ninth with a 29.418. Still no times from Trulli, Liuzzi or Glock.

A 27.582 sees Kubica go second as Trulli waits patiently in the Lotus garage, his car thought to be suffering a hydraulics problem again.

Another off for Kobayashi but this time it's a bit more serious. The Sauber driver loses his front wing on the approach to Turn 3, the Japanese youngster a helpless passenger as his car heads into the gravel trap where it becomes bogged down. He's straight out of the car but the red flags are brought out nonetheless.

There is concern in the Sauber garage as the crew begins its investigation into why the wing assembly became detached in the first place.

When the session resumes di Grassi is first out, with fellow Brazilian, Rubens Barrichello, close behind.

Barrichello improves to thirteenth with a 29.904, just ahead of his Williams teammate. Meanwhile, Schumacher is exactly one second off the pace of his teammate, Nico Rosberg.

Kubica goes quickest with a 27.249, but this is quickly beaten by Rosberg who crosses the line at 27.126. The Pole immediately responds with a 26.972.

With twelve minutes remaining, behind Kubica and Rosberg, it's: Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Buemi, Schumacher, Liuzzi, Petrov and Alonso.

More misery for Sauber as de la Rosa grinds to a halt on the pit straight. On the pit wall Willy Rampf and his crew look totally hacked off. Elsewhere, Petrov spins at Turn 3 and loses something from the bottom of the car as he slides across the kerb.

With just over six minutes remaining, the three new teams are all over 5.2s off the pace. Trulli improves to twentieth, just behind his Lotus teammate.

Massa improves to fourth with a 27.511 as teammate Alonso improves to seventh with a 27.919.

A late improvement sees di Resta go fourteenth, the Scot just 0.3s off his teammate's pace.

The session ends with Kubica quickest, ahead of Rosberg, Button, Massa, Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Buemi, Petrov and Liuzzi.

di Resta is eleventh, ahead of Schumacher, Alguersuari, Webber, de la Rosa, Barrichello, Hulkenberg, Kobayashi, Trulli, Kovalainen - who stops on track - di Grassi, Senna, Chandhok and Glock.

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    Published: 26/03/2010
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