Alonso looks sharp in Va­len­cia free-prac­tice

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

VA­LEN­CIA, Spain: Fer nando Alonso pro­vided Span­ish fans with hope of a suc­cess­ful Re­nault week­end yes­ter­day af­ter set­ting the fastest lap time in Euro­pean Grand Prix prac­tise, while Brawn GP showed it may have re­dis­cov­ered its early sea­son form fol­low­ing a three­r­ace dip.

Alonso timed a best lap of 1min, 39.404sec across two ses­sions at the Va­len­cia street cir­cuit course to lead over­all F1 leader Jen­son But­ton and Brawn GP team­mate Rubens Bar­richello.

Alonso, a two-time world cham­pion from Spain, was only cleared to race on Mon­day when F1’s gov­ern­ing body over­turned Re­nault’s on­er­ace ban stem­ming from a safety in­ci­dent at the pre­ced­ing Hun­gar­ian GP.

Fer­rari re­place­ment Luca Ba­doer’s first re­turn to F1 af­ter a decade did not start well, with the 38-year-old Ital­ian driver fin­ish­ing 18th with a lap time 2.6 sec­onds off of Alonso’s.

Ba­doer is re­plac­ing in­jured driver Felipe Massa, who won here last year. The Fer­rari re­serve driver fin­ished over a sec­ond be­hind team­mate Kimi Raikko­nen.

Ro­main Gros­jean’s de­but for Re­nault started bet­ter than Ba­doer’s with Fer­rari as the 23-yearold French­man – the first to drive for the French team in 24 years – fin­ished 13th, 1.383 sec­onds off his team­mate’s pace.

But­ton has seen his cham­pi­onship lead slip since pick­ing up a sixth victory from seven races at Is­tan­bul. He now leads Red Bull’s Mark Web­ber by 18.5 points fol­low­ing three poor races.

But car up­grades ap­pear to have ben­e­fited the Bri­tish team as Web­ber fin­ished nearly eight-tenths of a sec­ond off But­ton’s pace, while Web­ber’s team­mate Se­bas­tian Vet­tel – who trails But­ton by 23 points in third – was just over half a sec­ond back.

Team prin­ci­pal Ross Brawn said the change of for­tunes came down to tire tem­per­a­ture as the 49-de­gree Cel­sius track al­lowed the Brawn GPs to achieve op­ti­mal con­di­tions.

“Hope­fully we can take ad­van­tage of th­ese up­grades be­cause we haven’t had some very good races re­cently,” Brawn said. “It’s still an is­sue that we’ll need to deal with. That’s the pre­dom­i­nant rea­son – there was noth­ing hor­ri­bly wrong with the car.”

Wil­liams pair Nico Ros­berg and Kazuki Naka­jima rounded out the top five, while Adrian Su­til gave Force In­dia hope of pick­ing up its first points af­ter ma­jor up­grades helped the Ger­man driver fin­ish sixth fastest.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamil­ton, who was com­ing off his first win of the sea­son at Bu­dapest, was third fastest in the morn­ing ses­sion but saw his sec­ond stint end af­ter three laps.

Ba­doer trailed leader Bar­richello by 3.380 sec­onds af­ter the first ses­sion as Michael Schu­macher – who was poised to re­place Massa only for a neck in­jury to deny the seven-time cham­pion’s re­turn – watched on from pit lane.

Alonso had trou­ble with trac­tion and skid­ded re­peat­edly, at one stage send­ing Nick Hei­d­feld’s BMW Sauber car air­borne dur­ing the sec­ond ses­sion. “I saw him in the rear view mir­ror lock­ing up his wheels and tried to open the door for him,” said Hei­d­feld, who had to re­tire af­ter 29 laps of the ses­sion. “But he went straight into me and I al­most rolled.”

Prac­tice con­tin­ues to­day be­fore qual­i­fy­ing de­ter­mines the start­ing or­der for to­mor­row’s 57-lap race. – AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.