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Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Friday, 22 August 2008 14:58 UK
European Grand Prix
Valencia, Spain, 22-24 August 2008

Kimi Raikkonen
Raikkonen pipped Alonso by just a few hundredths of a second

Kimi Raikkonen was fastest as Ferrari outpaced McLaren in Friday practice for the European Grand Prix in Valencia.

The world champion beat Renault's Fernando Alonso by 0.020 seconds in the afternoon session after Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel topped the first.

Jenson Button's uncompetitive Honda was third, underlining how little times in practice can be used to gauge competitiveness for Sunday's race.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fourth, with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton next up.

Hamilton, leading the world championship going into this race on a new street circuit, set the pace for much of the first session only to spin on what was looking set to be his fastest lap.

He said: "It's a bit slippery, but I enjoyed it. All the time I was out there, I was learning new things about the track. It's just a matter of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together."

Vettel was a surprise name at the top of the times after the morning session.

The German had just beaten Hamilton's mark when the Englishman spun, and the Toro Rosso driver went faster again to set a one minute 40.496 seconds best.

The times quickly came down in the afternoon as the cars cleared dust from the track, increasing its grip.

Raikkonen, who has said he wants to work on improving his qualifying pace after struggling in recent races, left the fastest time at 1:39.477, with Massa 0.201secs behind him, and just 0.034secs ahead of Hamilton.

Massa was second in the morning session, 0.158secs adrift of Vettel, with Hamilton third followed by Vettel's team-mate Sebastien Bourdais.

The times would seem to suggest a competitive race on Sunday as Hamilton seeks to extend his five-point championship lead.

The Toro Rosso cars put on new tyres at the end of the session while the front-runners did not, which would have flattered their competitiveness.

They are not expected to be major contenders for victory on Sunday - Vettel ended the afternoon session 16th fastest.

A number of drivers had spins or off-course moments in the morning as they sought to learn a new track with a slippery surface.

But there were no major crashes despite the concrete walls lining the track.

Raikkonen was fastest after the drivers had been out for their first exploratory timed laps, but the world champion ended the session seventh.

McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica, who were both fastest at various points during the first 90 minutes of action, split Raikkonen from Bourdais.

Hamilton looked the man to beat as soon as the cars went out for their second runs, with a series of impressive laps keeping him clear of the field.

And although Vettel then displaced the world championship leader at the top of the time sheets with a few minutes to go, Hamilton looked set to displace him - he set the fastest first sector time before losing control while braking for a right right-hander.

The Red Bulls of David Coulthard and Mark Webber brought up the rear, despite being fundamentally the same car as the Toro Rosso, albeit with a different engine.

Webber, BBC Sport's columnist, admitted the team were struggling, but he said he was enjoying the track and that he expected it to produce an exciting race with a number of interventions by the safety car.

"It's a good street circuit," Webber said. "I'm enjoying driving round it. I'm not enjoying seeing the lap times!

"We had a tough first session. We've got a lot of work to do because we are definitely not quick enough at all, David and I.


"There are not many fast corners, but the straights are quite quick with a few kinks on them. It's quicker than the normal street circuit. They've done a good job with it.

"The first part of the track is a bit like Montreal, with a lot of chicanes, but after that it's sort of a street circuit of its own.

"I think we'll have a safety car or two in the race, which can blow the results around a bit. But, hey, if we're on the receiving end of a bit of luck this time, why not?"

Webber was more competitive in the second session, setting 11th fastest time.

Times from first practice at European Grand Prix at Valencia:

1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari one minute 40.496 seconds
2 Felipe Massa (Brz) Ferrari 1:40.654
3 Lewis Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:40.822
4 Sebastien Bourdais (Fra) 1:41.099
5 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:41.163
6 Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:41.281
7 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:41.317
8 Kazuki Nakajima (Jpn) Williams-Toyota 1:41.329
9 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1:41.385
10 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota 1:41.706
11 Rubens Barrichello (Brz) Honda 1:41.830
12 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:41.930
13 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari 1:41.951
14 Timo Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:42.036
15 Nelson Piquet Jr (Brz) Renault 1:42.107
16 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:42.453
17 Jenson Button (GB) Honda 1:42.460
18 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Force India-Ferrari 1:43.075
19 David Coulthard (GB) Red Bull-Renault 1:43.312
20 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 1:43.524

Second practice times:

1 Raikkonen 1:39.477
2 Alonso 1:39.497
3 Button 1:39.546
4. Massa 1:39.678
5. Hamilton 1:39.712
6. Kovalainen 1:39.954
7. Glock 1:39.967
8. Kubica 1:40.149
9. Piquet 1:40.439
10. Fisichella 1:40.500
11. Webber 1:40.585
12. Rosberg 1:40.607
13. Coulthard 1:40.696
14. Nakajima 1:40.742
15. Trulli 1:40.877
16. Vettel 1:40.982
17. Sutil 1:40.999
18. Heidfeld 1:41.084
19. Bourdais 1:41.246
20. Barrichello 1:41.377

see also
Consistency is key, says Hamilton
20 Aug 08 |  Formula One

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