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Page last updated at 13:55 GMT, Friday, 21 August 2009 14:55 UK

Alonso tops practice in Valencia

EUROPEAN GRAND PRIX
Venue: Valencia Dates: 21-23 August 2009 Coverage: Live coverage of Friday's practice sessions, Saturday qualifying and Sunday's race - which starts at 1300 BST - across BBC TV, radio and online platforms. Find full listings here

Fernando Alonso's Renault and Nick Heidfeld's BMW just after colliding

Report - Alonso quickest despite crash (UK users only)

By Chris Whyatt

Renault's Fernando Alonso set the fastest lap in Friday practice for the European Grand Prix while stuttering championship leaders Brawn went well.

Despite a collision with Nick Heidfeld, the Spaniard clocked one minute 39:404 seconds in the quicker second session.

Brawn's Jenson Button was second in hot conditions while team-mate Rubens Barrichello topped the first session.

McLaren impressed in the morning, though world champion Lewis Hamilton span out early on in the afternoon.

"I had a bit of a half spin in the high speed corner and damaged the wing," said the 24-year-old. "I didn't even really feel it but I did touch the wall and grazed the front but it could have been a lot worse.

I think we'll still be good tomorrow [for qualifying] so I'm still positive. It's just a shame we missed so much time but it can be regained

Lewis Hamilton

"We made some changes this weekend and tried something new on my car and we don't have lots of wings available but if we go back to the old set-up then we have spares so it won't be a problem.

"I think we'll still be good tomorrow so I'm still positive. It's just a shame we missed so much time but it can be regained."

Practice timesheets are essentially irrelevant - teams are largely testing cars and running different programmes for each of their two drivers in order to collect data they can analyse afterwards.

But McLaren, for whom world champion Hamilton won the last grand prix in Hungary, may be heartened that their recent progress appears to be continuing with their strong showing in the first session, as Heikki Kovalainen and Hamilton came second and third respectively.

Friday practice at the Valencia street circuit marked the first grand prix action after a month-long summer break and many teams have brought modified cars into the 11th instalment of the 17-race season.

Early on, the track was both dirty and slippery - but the street circuit gained grip in the afternoon with Alonso's time not far off Massa's 2008 qualifying pole lap of 1:38.989.

Alonso had been in danger of missing Sunday's race after his Renault team were handed a one-race ban in Hungary last month, but the team had that overturned at an appeal hearing in Paris last Monday.

But the two-time world champion set his time late in the day after being given a replacement nose section for his car following a collision earlier with Heidfeld's BMW Sauber, the German failing to see home favourite Alonso as he approached to pass him at the final corner.

Rubens Barrichello

Report - Barrichello fastest in Valencia practice (UK users only)

Championship-chasing Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber came in fifth and eighth respectively in the first session, with Vettel reporting "good balance" through all corners back to his garage, before tailing off in the second.

Brawn driver Button, who has stressed the importance of "resolving" his car's issues this weekend, reported understeer first and then oversteer on his modified car during the 90-minute morning session.

Team boss Ross Brawn said that although the cars had a reasonable aero upgrade, the cars' improved pace was solely down to the hotter ambient temperatures in Valencia.

The team have been uncompetitive in the last three races because they could not get their tyres up to the correct operating temperatures in the cooler conditions - and Brawn said the team had investigated the problem but had so far not come up with a way of solving it.

"Tyre temperature is still an issue we will have to find a solution to," Brawn said. "Our strength is our ability to use the tyres in hot weather. We have to work out how to use them in cold temperatures."

He said the team had some "ideas" that they planned to try for the Belgian Grand Prix in a week's time. The Spa-Francorchamps circuit is in the Ardennes mountains and the race is often run in cool weather.

Webber and Vettel - second and third-placed in the driver's championship - have closed the gap on leader Button in recent weeks, but the Englishman still leads by 18.5 points.

Renault and Ferrari new-boys Romain Grosjean and Luca Badoer ran relatively cautiously around the Valencia street circuit.

Badoer, 38, is only driving for Ferrari because German legend Michael Schumacher was not considered fit enough to replace the injured Felipe Massa - a neck problem denying the seven-time world champion a sensational return to the sport.

606: DEBATE
corzellian

His Italian stand-in duly finished with the slowest time in the first session before finishing third-last in the second as he got to grips with the Formula 1 spotlight, though he completed 62 laps over the course of the day - more than a grand prix race distance.

Grosjean, who is replacing the sacked Nelson Piquet Jr, came 17th in the morning before improving to a respectable 13th place in the afternoon session.

Saturday practice starts at 1000 BST before qualifying at 1300 BST.



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see also
European Grand Prix practice results
05 Aug 09 |  Results
European GP practice as it happened
21 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Alonso 'will switch to Ferrari'
21 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Vettel pens new Red Bull contract
21 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
McLaren talk up Kers 'advantage'
20 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Button out to reignite title push
20 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Rosberg targets switch to McLaren
20 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
YouTube chief to back US F1 team
20 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Renault drive chance for Grosjean
18 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Renault cleared for European GP
17 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Schumacher calls off F1 comeback
11 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Buoyant Hamilton surprised to win
26 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton grabs first win of 2009
26 Jul 09 |  Formula 1
F1 on the BBC
01 Dec 11 |  Formula 1


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