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Friday analysis - Ferrari and McLaren all set for epic battle 05 Oct 2007

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren talks with the media.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Friday, 5 October 2007 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF107.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Friday, 5 October 2007 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Friday, 5 October 2007 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB3.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Friday, 5 October 2007 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Friday, 5 October 2007

When only 0.023s cover three cars, you know you have a close situation, and that was the case in Shanghai on Friday afternoon. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was the fastest of all, with 1m 36.607s, but McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were right there too, with laps of 1m 36.613s and 1m 36.630s respectively.

To a man, the drivers complained that the track was very ‘green’ and slippery most of the day, albeit improving slightly towards the end as more rubber went down.

All three of the fastest had off-course moments but no complaints, while McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, fourth on 1m 36.676s on his first acquaintance with the track, was quite happy with what he achieved. It was a good day for Toyota, too, with Jarno Trulli fifth on 1m 37.151s and Ralf Schumacher seventh on 1m 37.524s. Apart from a spin by the former, things went smoothly here.

Things were quite copasetic at Red Bull, too, with Mark Webber sixth on 1m 37.450s and David Coulthard eighth on 1m 37.617s. Both men were happy with their day’s work.

Once again Nico Rosberg was in strong form for Williams, with fifth fastest time in the morning and ninth (1m 37.646s) in the afternoon. The German found a big difference between the Michelins he ran here last year and this season’s Bridgestones, but was happy after experimentation with pressures and wing angles in the afternoon. Kazuki Nakajima handled the test duties in the morning and was ninth quickest, while Alex Wurz took over for the afternoon and was 16th on 1m 38.531s after experiencing the same phenomena as Rosberg had.

Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen were 10th and 11th for Renault (1m 37.970s and 1m 38.062s). Fisichella suffered from inconsistent grip throughout the day, while Kovalainen had a fuel pressure warning problem which brought his R27 to a halt for a while. He managed to get two more runs in after that, however.

In 12th and 13th places, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello lapped in 1m 38.205s and 1m 38.304s respectively, and while neither felt their Honda was particularly quick they got a good handle on tyre evaluation.

Once again the BMW Saubers weren’t particularly fast on a Friday, as they once again concentrated on race set-up work. Robert Kubica lapped in 1m 38.055s for sixth in the morning, but only managed 1m 38.379s in the afternoon’s faster session, complaining of erratic handling and poor balance. Team mate Nick Heidfeld was respectively 10th and 15th (1m 38.445s and 1m 38.388s), but had one of those fragmented days. What appeared to be an engine problem in the morning transpired to be gearbox failure, necessitating a change of unit. The replacement malfunctioned in the afternoon, too, which meant a third unit had to be installed.

At Super Aguri, Anthony Davidson lapped in 1m 38.975s and was happy with the balance of his SA07, but Takuma Sato in 20th place on 1m 39.360s complained of traffic on his best run.

Tonio Liuzzi was the quicker Toro Rosso runner in 18th place with 1m 39.055s, team mate Sebastian Vettel running a 1m 39.404s for 21st. Neither could get what they wanted from their STR02s on new rubber, but felt they had some direction for Saturday.

Sakon Yamamoto was disappointed with last place on 1m 40.051s as he had run either slightly ahead of or equal to Spyker team mate Adrian Sutil, until the German recorded 1m 39.224s and vaulted up to 19th. Both found it difficult to squeeze speed out of their cars on the harder Bridgestones.