Well well well, just how crucial will qualifying be tomorrow then? Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen with their Kers, Fernando Alonso a good bet to run light, the Brawn GPs consistently long-runners, and the Red Bulls surely keen to get on the front row to give them their best chance of holding off their rivals. We could be in for a right royal rumble, folks. Join me on Saturday morning from 0930 BST and we'll all have a nice little chat about it. Jubbly.
From JimClark07 on 606:
"I think (Renault new-boy) Romain Grosjean is looking good considering he would be on race fuel loads, was competitive within the field and within a second of Alonso most of the second session."
From cilurnum on 606:
"With Renault in this form, why would Alonso want to go to Ferrari? There's no reason to believe that Ferrari are going to be any better next year than this. Apart from no refuelling there are no regulation changes for the cars."
That's second practice done, then, with home favourite Fernando Alonso the fastest man in Valencia. Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, with the heat well and truly in their tyres, will be hugely encouraged by the performance of their Brawn GPs in second and third, with the Williams of Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima behind. The Finnish pair of Heikki Kovalainen of McLaren and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen are 10th and 11th respectively - disappointing - but Force India can be happy with their two top-eight finishes. Should we be throwing a Fernando Alonso upset into the Brawn-McLaren-Red Bull melting pot of victory bids here? I should coco.
Poor ol' Sebastian Buemi - not only is he languishing back in 15th spot in the timings, he is now reporting that his right foot "is completely burned" as the carbon pedals in his car heat up in the 50 degree heat in Valencia. Anyone got any Savlon?
Home-boy Fernando Alonso is back out on track - new wing attached - and he is back out with a kaboom as he tears 0.8 seconds out of the fastest time so far with a lap of 1:39.404 to push the much-improved Brawn GPs of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello into second and third.
From prakhar1 on 606:
"It looks like Ferrari are having problem with their suspension on their car. They better solve their problems fast."
Rubens Barrichello tops the timings once again, ahead of Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button and Kazuki Nakajima. Heikki Kovalainen is pushing his McLaren for all it's worth further back but is only sixth fastest at the moment, while Luca Badoer climbs off the bottom of the charts to leapfrog Jaime Alguersuari into 18th. The non-running Lewis Hamilton is last.
"Just plain stupid," is Nick Heidfeld's assessment of Alonso following that collision on the team radio. Neither driver is happy, then.
Bosh! Fernando Alonso and Nick Heidfeld collide at the final corner with the former apparently on a flying lap and the Spaniard's front wing comes off as Heidfeld's BMW Sauber just about stays upright after flying into the air. It looked like Heidfeld just didn't see Alonso there, and I don't suppose the Renault is very happy about that. Unlike Michael Schumacher, who is giggling like a schoolboy after too many sweets in the Ferrari paddock. The competitive edge remains.
Less than 20 minutes remaining in the session and Fernando Alonso is still the fastest man out there. Elsewhere, you would think the Brawn GPs are happy with their progress, while McLaren's decision not to send Lewis Hamilton back out with a new nose earlier suggests to me they are quite happy with the car too. Red Bull cannot be happy with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in eighth and 13th, though, I wouldn't have thought?
Kimi Raikkonen is not a happy bunny - he pits as the fifth fastest in the standings complaining that the "front right is vibrating quite badly". Few prizes for guessing how his Ferrari team-mate Luca Badoer is faring - the poor ol' Italian is struggling.
Fernando Alonso is once again the fastest man on the track with a lap of 1:40.620, this time on the super-soft tyres. The numbers dropping all the time, though. Well done to all you who spotted my Blackadder quote below - I only steal from the best.
From FormulaWest on 606:
"I'm a real Lewis fan, but it's great to see Alonso at his home GP. Hope he gets pole and a podium finish but I want Lewis to win! It should be good to watch them battle it out with hopefully KERS alowing some overtaking (although virtually impossible at this circuit)."
With Spa and Monza almost certain to play more into Red Bull's hands rather than the Brawn GPs, you have to think this could be a crucial weekend for championship leader Jenson Button. And the Briton looks to be in good shape, too, topping the charts at 1:40.911, with team-mate Rubens Barrichello close behind. A Brawn one-two in that order come Sunday could be all they need to place one hand on the drivers' championship?
A flier from Fernando Alonso as he zips round in 1:41.324 to the delight of the smattering of Spanish fans holed up at the track in Valencia. The chat appears to be that the hard tyres - upon which Alonso has just set his time - will be best left until late in qualifying and the race, with the softs and super-softs more suited to what promises to be a dusty, dirty track with little grip early doors. And as I type, with the track clearly speeding up, Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello and Jarno Trulli all beat Alonso's time. We're nearing qualifying pace now.
From Bahnstormer on 606:
"Have you noticed that this is how Brawn operate... a few laps, a bit of set-up, then BANG - Q3 - Pole position!!!"
Jenson Button tops the charts with a 1:41.534 - a sign the Brawn GP updates are kicking into gear?
Nico Rosberg sets the fastest time of the session so far with a 1:41.588, just ahead of Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel - who is starting to show some pace for the first time today - and Williams team-mate Kazuki Nakajima. Luca Badoer's struggles continue, though, as he struggles to hold on to the car into a corner further back on the track and he's showing all the pace of an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping at the moment.
Lewis Hamilton's second practice is over. He did indeed clip his car on that earlier spin, damaging the supports of his new front wing, and McLaren do not have the time/inclination to replace them so the Briton will sit out the rest of the session. Holly Samos
reports the team do not appear to be too concerned for final practice or qualifying, though...
Rubens Barrichello, fastest through the first sector, loses something in the final two to slip in as the second quickest man on the track... only for Nico Rosberg to re-take second in the charts moments later. The German is starting to motor in his Williams. Poor ol' Luca Badoer continues to hold up the pack in 20th, lapping as he is at 1:44.574, some three seconds off the pace.
BBC Sport's Andrew Benson at Valencia:
"Toyota are trying out a Red Bull-style sculpted chassis here. Instead of the usual box shape, the top of the chassis has an elongated scoop out of the middle. The team can then mirror this shape at the bottom of the chassis to improve the airflow under the car, increasing downforce and therefore grip. Because this means raising the sides of the chassis, though, the issue is making sure the driver can see properly."
From VillaFour on 606:
"I think the continued improvement of the McLarens and the potential of Force India will be the surprise of the weekend."
Fernando Alonso is starting to tear up trees at his home track and he is the fastest man on the track with a lap of 1:41.861 ahead of Nico 'Prince of Practice' Rosberg. First-practice leader Rubens Barrichello is fourth, Jenson Button ninth, Lewis Hamilton 11th and Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel 16th and 17th respectively. Plenty of movement still to come, though, for sure.
BBC Sport's Andrew Benson on Twitter:
"Pure comedy in the F1 media centre. No TV pictures or timing screens as P2 starts - and this at the next race after the Hungary qualifying fiasco."
From John via text on 81111:
"Sounds all a bit desperate at Brawn at the moment, swapping wings and set-ups, it sounds like they don't really know what to do to get the car back to it's best!"
From BBC Sport's Sarah Holt in Valencia:
"My hair is now stuck to my face after a lunchtime hunt for information in the steamy climes of the Valencia paddock. Luckily, I now have a navy Valencia beanie hat to protect me from the worst of the sun. Great. The drivers must be suffering in their fireproof suits and Mark Webber marched purposefully past me with his suit pushed down to his waist (don't worry he still had his thermals on underneath). Sensibly, new boy Romain Grosjean sought shelter inside Renault. I was surprised by how skinny he was but he was very smiley so must have been pleased with the first session. No-one is giving away too much before second practice where hopefully we'll find out whether Brawn have regained their pace and McLaren maintained theirs."
1313: Holly Samos
reports on BBC Five Live sports extra that, upon returning to the pits, Lewis Hamilton had that new front wing whisked off and raced straight to the back of pits for a quick check-up, suggesting either that he did clip it after all, or that McLaren don't want the photographers getting a nice close-up of it. Where's your money?
Ber-limey, Lewis Hamilton - with a new nose on the front of his McLaren - almost wipes out as he spins in the dust on the circuit and the Briton avoids ramming into the corner by a matter of a gnat's eyelash. Big let-off, that. Adrian Sutil, meanwhile, goes top of the time charts with a 1:42.601, with home favourite Fernando Alonso in second.
Lewis Hamilton posts the early marker in his McLaren with a lap of 1:43.214, with eight drivers having laid down times, including Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso.
Force India commercial director Ian Phillips on Five Live sports extra:
"The timing of our improvements could not have been better. Two weeks out of the three we've had off, production absolutely had to stop, but we've forced on updates on to the car and from the minute Adrian Sutil hit the track this morning the improved pace - equivalent to 0.7 of a second - was in full evidence, so we're delighted."
The pit lane opens its doors for business and once again Ferrari's Luca Badoer is among the first out on track.
From ppl752 on 606:
"In his spare time, Kimi races World Rally, Speed Boats (in a Gorilla suit under the alias James Hunt), and Snow Mobiles (winning, again under the name James Hunt). He's a cool guy."
Luca Badoer will be looking for a vast improvement on his morning's effort in second practice, then, after finishing with the slowest lap time of the session. Worrying times all round for Ferrari, perhaps, with Kimi Raikkonen managing only 10th - although, as we all know, that could very well count for little come race time. Lest we forget, Badoer is only here due to that horrific injury to Felipe Massa - our thoughts remain with him, of course - and his friend and compatriot Rubens Barrichello has urged him not to rush his return. "From a friend's point of view, he is ready to race. But from a medical point of view I think he has to stay calm and wait for that answer. I would not hurry up to get back," said the Brazilian.
BBC Sport's Sarah Holt on Twitter:
"I wonder if Brawn were running the old set-up on Rubens Barrichello's car or on Jenson Button's then? I just asked Ted Kravitz, fresh from the pit-lane, and he says that Brawn aren't saying who is running on what until after practice two."
Plenty of chat over on
about Kimi Raikkonen's charisma (or perceived lack thereof) but, if the stories I've been told are true, I think it's fair to say there's a shedload more to the flying Finn than meets the eye from his post-race interviews, believe me. Still, whether or not he's in line to replace Heikki Kovalainen at McLaren next season, who knows. One man - as F1NICOF1
pointed out below - who would up for the job is Nico Rosberg. "I have been team-mate with Lewis before so that wouldn't be a problem. It would be fun and very tough: a combination - sweet and sour. I would like a good team-mate, for sure." Hhmmm.
Ah, you made it back, well done. I myself have had to tear my eyes from
- I've got tickets for Monday's play at The Oval and am selfishly solely hoping that it gets that far. Is that unpatriotic? Anyway, with Jenson Button and
Lewis Hamilton now flying
in F1, who needs cricket success anyway? This afternoon could be our first major indicator of pace ahead of the weekend and Hamilton and
championship leader Button
both looked to be benefitting from the updates to their respective McLaren and Brawn GP cars this morning. Red Bull may want to step up a gear, though?
From f1sfredastairemk2 on 606:
"Times achieved at the practice sessions are becoming ever-more irrelevant, especially so at a track like Valencia, dusty and devoid of track rubber at the start. Whoever did their quick laps towards the end were always likely to go quicker than those who did them earlier in the session."
From goodwinator on 606:
"Looks like it might be a fight between the Brawns and McLaren in qualifying but, as they say, practice don't mean owt!!"
From Hammydigrassi on 606:
"Interesting to hear that Alonso thinks that Hamilton, Vettel and Massa will be his nearest rivals next season. Surely this means Raikkonen's a goner from Ferrari and Alonso's joining Massa at Ferrari?"
So that late gear problem has zero impact on Rubens Barrichello's finishing position after first practice, with his lap of 1:42.460 topping the time charts in Valencia. He is followed by the McLarens of Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton, his Brawn GP team-mate Jenson Button, with Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel fifth. The fight for race wins - says Anthony Davidson on BBC Five Live sports extra
- is firmly, now, between three teams; Brawn GP, Red Bull and McLaren. One surprise from that session - Nico Rosberg finished in 14th. What happened to the Prince of Practice?!
There's been more than a fair share of spins on the dusty turns of Valencia out there, with the Toyotas, Sebastian Vettel and Heikki Kovalainen all among those facing the wrong way out on the track at various points today. Problems, too, for timings leader Rubens Barrichello as the Brawn GP driver gets stuck in gear and unable to select neutral. BBC pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz
expects that's his session done but he'll return in full working order later.
From F1NICOF1 on 606:
"It would be great to see Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg pairing again after their time together in karting."
Now then, with under 10 minutes to go in the first practice session at Valencia, Rubens Barrichello is top of the time charts with a 1:42.460 lap, ahead of the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen and his Brawn GP team-mate Jenson Button. Adrian Sutil continues to impress in his Force India and he is sixth fastest, but Kimi Raikkonen is languishing back in 11th in his Ferrari. Hhmmm.
From 355gts on 606:
"And don't forget, the McLaren boys only have half the update in this session!"
From Mick in York via text on 81111:
"I can't see Raikkonnen going to another team. I think he's been bored with F1 since he won it. Off to rallying full time no doubt."
From Will, Birmingham via text on 81111:
"Hey guys, don't forget the 1999 European GP, where Luca Badour was in the running for a podium in his Minardi before his car failed."
Anything Heikki can do... Lewis Hamilton is the fastest man out on the track now with a 1:42.754. Success in Hungary last time out and the McLarens look on pace again here in Valencia. Where's practice king Nico Rosberg I hear, erm, one of you cry?! He is 12th fastest with just over 15 minutes to keep up his excellent record outside of qualifying and the races. Keep your eyes peeled for a late charge from the German.
And Heikki Kovalainen snatches top spot with a lap of 1:42.762... before spinning off at the entry of the pits and opting to crawl back to the crew a touch red-faced. Bless 'im.
The top of the time-charts starting to take on a more familiar feel now, with Jenson Button leading from Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso. Elsewhere, Heikki Kovalainen is responding to rumours his McLaren seat may not be as secure as he might like with the sixth fastest time, with Lewis Hamilton 10th and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen 11th. The new boys of F1 continue to hold up the pack, but all sorts of update and car tests appear to be going on with Renault, Ferrari and Toro Rosso drivers Grosjean, Badoer and Alguersuari.
From Steve Scotland via text on 81111:
"With Martin Whitmarsh mentioning the Alonso situation, do we think McLaren could be intrested in Kimi Raikkonen again? Would love to see that! His '05 season was legendary."
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh may have just opened up a can of worms on BBC Five Live sports extra
. Asked if he is planning to replace Heikki Kovalainen next season, he replied that "we all know that Fernando Alonso's move to Ferrari will have a ripple effect on other teams. It opens up the driver market. We are not in talks with any other drivers at the moment, but are obliged to have the most competitive cars and drivers that we can". Well well well...
...and just as I write that, Brawn GP's championship leader Jenson Button posts the fastest lap of the day so far with a 1:43.074.
Mark Webber goes top of the time-charts with a 1:43.243 lap, but not a great deal on show to indicate the true race pace of any of the teams right now. McLaren, certainly, are holding something back with Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen 6th and 11th fastest at the moment.
Rubens Barrichello is out and about now, complaining that his brakes are too hot. "They're not excessively hot Rubens, we're not worried" reply his Brawn engineers. Robert Kubica and text commentary favourite Adrian Sutil now lie behind Fernando Alonso in the timings, with F1 new-boys Jaime Alguersuari, Luca Badoer and Romain Grosjean propping up the pack. Welcome to F1 boys.
Home favourite Fernando Alonso goes top of the time charts, with 12 drivers having posted completed laps, although the Spaniard's 1:43.413 is sure to be around five seconds short of qualifying pace come Saturday afternoon. Jenson Button,
who believes he and the team have figured out their ills of the past few races,
is getting ready to get out on track - we may be about to see if Brawn GP's suspension and wheel updates have made much of an impact.
From BBC Sport's Andrew Benson:
"I didn't come to Valencia for the inaugural grand prix last year, when it got a bit of stick for being scruffy and underwhelming. So I've been surprised by how attractive it is. The city is dotted with spectacular new architecture, and whereas last year the harbour was practically empty of boats after F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone apparently got a bit over-optimistic with his fees, this year there are some cruisers and the like moored up, and the palm trees and old market buildings in the marina provide a nice backdrop. It's not exactly Monaco, but it's undoubtedly a pleasant place to be. Shame that doesn't come across on telly very well. Perhaps that's partly why there is talk that despite the city's investment, F1 might not be coming back in 2010."
From Paul Rimmer, Devon via text on 81111:
"Is there any foundation to the rumours that I might be signed up for McLaren in 2011? Or was that just a dream I had last night?"
From Arkimsa on 606:
"New Renault driver Romain Grosjean isn't bad... so far quickest in sector 1 and 2, second on the speed trap... I think I'm going to like him."
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner:
"Which horse do we back? Sebastian Vettel
(who has signed a new contract with the team until 2011)
and Mark Webber are both so evenly matched, I think it's only fair that the team gives them equal opportunity. We'll continue to do that until it comes to a point when it's either mathematically or practically impossible for one of them to win the championship. We'll continue to give them the same updates and opportunities."
Sebastian Buemi is the fastest man on the track with a lap of 1:44.998, though only four men have completed laps. Toyota's Jarno Trulli finds a bit of dust - even on the driving line - and spins further back on the track. The Valencia track is bathed in sunshine out there, though one unnamed member of this office has described it as "more Middlesbrough than Monaco" given it's industrial outlook. Fair?
From BBC Sport's Sarah Holt:
"Buenos dias amigos. Hurrah, another chance for me to put my ongoing Spanish lessons to the test. Came in handy last night with my quatro cervezas por favor, I can tell you. Here in Valencia the organisers of the VIP car park have got a little bit lost in translation.
"The sign above Jenson Button's spot has him driving for new team Brown GP. Apparently, it does make a bit of sense as team boss Ross Brawn has always found his surname pronounced Brown in Spain and Italy. Thus ends my language lesson for today."
From goodwinator on 606:
"If the weather is going to be hot, that will suit the Brawns better as they can't get the tyres up to temperature in the cold."
From Cricketing_stargazer on 606:
"There's only one way to win in Valencia: get to the front of the grid and have the right pit-stop strategy. If Lewis Hamilton and Kers are on one of the front two rows he'll have a superb chance of winning. Mind you, had Nelsinho Piquet been on the front row even he would manage to win from there."
Bit of chat ahead of this race about Kers, with McLaren showing it can give those cars using it a big advantage at the right tracks last time out in Hungary. Only they and Ferrari will be using Kers again this weekend, lest we forget, and that could provide a big advantage with the long straights and crushed breaking zones. Hamilton, for one,
expects Kers to provide him with a potentially crucial boost...
where's ya money?
From Jay in Somerset via text on 81111:
"Finally F1 is back! Only slept four hours as I am so excited. My prediction: Alonso goes for glory and fuels on fumes to get pole. Hamilton to win. Pretty much a copy of the last race. Expecting a safety car with all these new/out-of-practice F1 drivers."
From Gmanblue on 606:
"Hope you enjoy yourselves at the circuit. I am stuck in a sweaty office just one hour south of Valencia coz I couldn't get the day off. Jealous? Me? You bet I am!"
From BBC Sport's Andrew Benson:
"This is a key race for Brawn - they hope to establish that they now understand how they have lost their way with the car in recent races. They think the answer lies in their rear suspension design. In practice on Friday, they will compare the new parts they introduced in Hungary last time out with an arrangement they were using earlier in the season. McLaren, aiming to continue their upward trend from the last two events, are also doing what is called a 'back-to-back' with some new parts."
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is the first man out on the track, with the likes of Robert Kubica of BMW and new Ferrari and Renault men Luca Badoer and Romain Grosjean not far behind. Badoer - a Ferrari test driver for a long ol' time - and Grosjean will be looking to make the most of these practices to get used to
you would imagine. This is one of the more difficult circuits to manage according to BBC Five Live sports extra F1 pundit Anthony Davidson.
Right then, first practice of the European Grand Prix gets under way, which leaves me only to make some introductions. New
Renault driver Romain Grosjean
Ferrari driver Luca Badoer,
the world, the world, new Renault driver Romain Grosjean and new Ferrari driver Luca Badoer. The rest of you all know each other I assume so I'll let you get back to your Paella and Gazpacho. Jubbly.
With just a few minutes until practice starts (and only two before you can witness moving pictures on this website (UK users only) and via the red button), I bring you a weather update. The finest minds in the BBC weather department have wet their fingers, stuck them out of the window of their Valencia offices, and decided it will be... hot and sunny all day. Who'd have thought?
BBC Sport's Sarah Holt on Twitter:
"Hola. Driving through Valencia's stunning modern architecture on the way to circuit. Bit cloudy but it'll burn off. Oh, and I timed my arrival at the track perfectly - walked through the gates with home hero Fernando Alonso, who managed to sneak through unnoticed."
Oh, no, before we get into all that, there's a bit of F1 breaking news (when isn't there)... Sebastian Vettel has extended his contract with Red Bull to the end of the 2011 season, with the team retaining an option for 2012. The original Michael Schumacher may not be here this weekend and seasons to come folks, but his 'successor' certainly will be.
But now, of course, it's all about the European Grand Prix. Can Lewis Hamilton continue his return to form? Can Red Bull continue to pile the pressure on Brawn GP in the constructors' championship?
Will Jenson Button see his once near-insurmountable lead continue to be whittled away? Answers on a postcard... or preferably via 606
or text on 81111
if you don't mind. Let me make you web famous for 15 minutes. Nice.
Ah, buenas dias gente! It's Valencia, it's the European Grand Prix, and it's officially the end of a fortnight's holiday for me. I haven't missed anything in the mad-cap world of Formula 1 have I?