Alonso reigns in tricky Spa conditions
Spaniard posts quickest lap times in practice for Belgian Grand Prix
FERNANDO Alonso proved to be a man for all seasons after topping the timesheet in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix in both the wet and dry.
the 90-minute morning session was blighted by heavy rain and dark skies, the conditions so bad that the Formula BMW and GP2 practice periods either side were red-flagged for being too dangerous.
the rain did finally ease off in the closing minutes, during which time Ferrari star Alonso, who had been out in front anyway, extended his advantage over McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.
Although the seven-kilometre Spa circuit was still horribly wet, the double world champion clocked a time just a fraction over two minutes.
the rain then poured down during the two-and-a-half-hour interval before giving way for good shortly before the start of the second session. As a dry line started to materialise so the times tumbled, with the lead changing hands on several occasions.
With 16 minutes remaining Force India’s Adrian Sutil was narrowly out in front, with Hamilton again second at the time. But then the session was red-flagged, with the message appearing that there ‘may be spectators in a dangerous area’.
It led to a handful of tours of the track from the safety car to ensure any fans who had wandered inside the barriers had escaped the scene.
With four minutes remaining the track reopened, with Alonso at the head of a queue of cars lined up in the pit lane. With a clear track in front of him the 29-year-old Spaniard deposed Sutil at the top of the standings with a lap of one minute 49.032 seconds, 11 seconds faster than his morning run in the wet.
It was the only significant change on the leaderboard as Sutil and Hamilton finished second and third, with Renault’s Robert Kubica in fourth, followed by the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa.
Hamilton, the 2008 champion, who is four points adrift of current championship leader Mark Webber with seven races remaining, said: “today’s been pretty good. I have positive feelings in the car and we are definitely making small steps forward. I do feel this track definitely suits the car a little bit better, it does feel quite good but we have only done a couple of laps on dry tyres.”
Red Bull’s Sebastian vettel and Jenson Button in his McLaren were sixth and seventh, with the Saubers of Pedro De La Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi featuring strongly as they were eighth and tenth.
On the occasion of his 300th grand prix this weekend, 38year-old Rubens Barrichello sandwiched the Sauber duo, finishing a second down on Alonso. the Mercedes pairing of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg were 1.3secs adrift in 12th and 13th, whilst Red Bull’s Webber, who celebrated his 34th birthday yesterday, was a lowly 18th and 2.6secs down.
the wetter conditions at the start of the session had caused a degree of consternation, with vitantonio Liuzzi doing well to keep his engine running after sliding off track at the righthanded Paul Frere corner.
Liuzzi then ran across the gravel, nudging a tyre barrier with his front wing before reversing out of his situation and returning to the garage for repairs that eventually saw him wind up 16th.
Liuzzi’s minor shunt had been preceded a minute earlier by a heavier impact involving virgin’s timo Glock as he slid sideways into a tyre wall coming out of Rivage.
Glock ultimately finished at the bottom of the timesheet, his time of 2:03.179 – 14 seconds down on Alonso – reflective of when conditions were at their worst earlier in the session.
timo glock’s Virgin car sits at the side of the track after he crashed in practice at Spa