After the four-week summer break Formula One is back, with Friday practice having already been completed at the Spa-Francochamps circuit in Belgium. With one session very wet and the second run in drying conditions it proved to be one of the more interesting Friday’s of the 2010 season, and Badger’s got the full details on it right here.
Free Practice 1
The idea that we’re returning from a summer break seemed utterly ludicrous at the start of the first session, with weather conditions that ranged from drizzle to downpour dominating proceedings.
And, frustratingly, the weather would keep on-track action down throughout the session. The limited number of wet tyres each driver is allocated for the weekend- that’s ? sets of full wets and ? sets of intermediates- means they need to conserve their supply, with a wet race a real possibility. As with most F1 rules this one’s well intentioned, but it does nothing to improve the show for the fans who’ve paid for their tickets and braved the rain to watch Friday practice.
Still, when drivers did take to the track it produced a great sight, with rooster tails rising from the backs of the cars and melting back in to the circuit. The conditions meant plenty of sideways moments, rear-ends snatching under braking and off track excursions. The drivers were really having to work hard out there, which is what everyone wants to see from the most skillful (and best paid) racers in the world.
Fernando Alosno topped much of the session in his Ferrari, improving late on as the track dried to finish 0.8 seconds clear of second placed Lewis Hamilton. Robert Kubica was third, with Sebastian Vettel, Adrian Sutil and Jenson Button recording the next fastest times. Mark Webber, Kamui Kobayashi, Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher completed the top ten.
At the other end of the grid Virgin Racing proved the quickest of the new teams, with Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi ending the session 19th and 20th respectively. But it was a miserable morning for Sakon Yamamoto. The Japanese driver, who continues to replace Karun Chandhok at Hispania, was slowest in FP1, two and a half seconds shy of 23rd placed Heikki Kovalainen- and close to 10 seconds slower than pacesetter Alonso. For the full times see below.
Free Practice 2
The track was still wet when FP2 kicked off, but the rain had stopped making dry running possible later in the session.
Proof that the conditions were improving came 15 minutes in to the session, when Fernando Alonso became the first man today to go under the 2 minute barrier. Lewis Hamilton was immediately out on intermediate tyres, and despite a poor first sector managed to set the fastest lap of the day. It was clearly time to switch to the lighter-tread tyres.
Not that there was grip to spare on the circuit- Timo Glock put his Virgin Racing machine in the barriers and Tonio Liuzzi dropped the Force India in the gravel- but as the session reached the 30 minute mark the sun was shining a dry line beginning to appear.
At the halfway point we saw the first driver brave slicks, with Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari showing that youth knows no fear by tacking one of F1’s most daunting tracks on dry weather tyres. The Spaniard went quickest- comfortably- registering as 10km/h quicker through the speedtrap, and with the sun shining brightly it was clearly time for slicks.
A number of changes at the top followed, with both McLaren drivers putting their names next to p1, but with 15 minutes to go it was Adrian Sutil who held the fastest lap, a 1m49.157.
Then a red flag fell, but with all cars registering as moving or in the pits it was hard to know what for. The answer was something of a rarity- spectators in a dangerous area. Badger reporter Benson Jamichello promises us it wasn’t him.
This prompted race director Charlie Whiting to take a very slow tour of the circuit in the safety car, conjuring the image of a farmer prowling his land with a shotgun looking for trespassers. What Charlie planned to do when he found the intruders- who turned out to be children- we just don’t know/
During farmer Whiting’s Mercedes-powered manhunt the clock continued to tick down. When the track went green again there were just over 3 minutes to go.
This prompted a queue of Formula One cars at the end of the pitlane, headed by Fernando Alonso. The time left would allow for just one flying lap, and it would be done on a very dry looking circuit.
Alonso lead the charge to set a quicker lap and went p1 with a ?. There was little in the way of change behind him, with the impressive Sutil ending the day second quickest from Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica, Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel. Jenson Button, Pedro de la Rosa, Rubens Barichello and Kamui Kobayashi rounded out the top ten.
So Ferrari look to have real pace around Spa- could they seal their first pole position of the year tomorrow? Or will Red Bull rise again, as they have on all but one Saturday in 2010, to take pole? Perhaps we’ll see something special from McLaren, or a standout performance from Robert Kubica or Adrian Sutil. We just don’t kn0w- and that’s what makes it so exciting.