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Analysis - Ferrari quietly confident yet again 06 Apr 2007

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 6 April 2007 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 6 April 2007 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 6 April 2007 Anthony Davidson (GBR) Super Aguri F1 SA07.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 6 April 2007 Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 6 April 2007

We take a closer look at how the teams fared on Friday

Kimi Raikkonen added fuel to Ferrari’s fire on Friday when, despite setting the fourth-fastest time (1m 36.160s) within four-tenths of a second of team mate Felipe Massa (1m 35.780s) in the second practice session, he revealed that he was not happy with his F2007’s performance.

He also reported that, in general, the two Bridgestone tyre specifications (soft and hard for ease of commentary, but actually in the overall perspective of the company’s 2007 offerings, the medium and hard compounds) weren’t a million miles apart, and that he would not, after all, need an engine change.

“The car feels reasonably okay but I’m not 100 percent happy,” he said. “We learned things but there is still work to do. The car felt different to the way it did here last week, the set-up was not as good as it was. The grip’s slightly different.”

Most felt the same as the high track and ambient temperatures hurt grip significantly. Where Renault and Williams got a handle on things, completing the top six with Ferrari, McLaren appeared to struggle while doing a lot of evaluation of both compounds.

For Renault, last year’s winner Giancarlo Fisichella was happy with second place (1m 35.910s), if not overjoyed. “We went through the programme this morning, but as I had not tested here since last year it took me until this afternoon to get more confident with the circuit. I tried the new tyres and the car was better balanced, so second and third places are quite encouraging for tomorrow.” Not that he really sounded encouraged. “The grip was quite poor,” he added, “especially with these track temps, but we are going better step by step. It’s going to be a tough race.” Heikki Kovalainen looked much more assured than he did in Melbourne, en route to 1m 36.106s for third.

Over at Williams the mood is good, even though Alex Wurz (1m 36.621s) felt that the on-track behaviour of the FW29 seemed different to the test and nobody can be totally sure just where they fitted into the overall pecking order until tomorrow afternoon. Nico Rosberg (1m 36.523s) believed that they had found a couple of good set-ups. The main problem concerned a software issue which prevented Kazuki Nakajima (1m 36.885s in the morning) from selecting first gear after his spin.

BMW Sauber had a problematic day, primarily struggling primarily with the balance. Both Robert Kubica (1m 35.717s) and Nick Heidfeld (1m 35.862s) got a little happier with it as the afternoon session progressed, but say there is plenty of work left to do in that area and that despite several modifications to the F1.07 there had not been the hoped-for significant step forward.

While team mate Jarno Trulli struggled all day to find grip and balance in his way to an afternoon best of 1m 37.712s, Ralf Schumacher was far happier with his Toyota TF107, which he lapped in an eighth fastest 1m 36.760s. Neither car had any mechanical problems, but Trulli just couldn’t get his settled down to his liking, even when track conditions improved.

McLaren seemed satisfied with only ninth and 12th fastest times, and Fernando Alonso claimed that everything had gone to plan. The primary intention there was to focus on tyre evaluation on a circuit where traditionally the rubber has very high levels of degradation, and this was perhaps not the most representative indication of the team’s potential as Hamilton lapped in 1m 36.797s and Alonso 1m 37.041s. “Our strategy impacted significantly on our laps times,” team principal Ron Dennis said.

Both Red Bulls had problems, with Mark Webber (1m 36.906s) stopping in the afternoon for a still as-yet undisclosed reason, and David Coulthard (1m 37.203s) complaining of a brake pedal clearance problem with the steering column which required modification.

At Super Aguri there was great satisfaction with Takuma Sato’s 14th-fastest lap of 1m 37.282s, which was very close to Alonso’s best, but the diminutive Japanese said he’d had a difficult day as they chased set-up. Anthony Davidson was likewise troubled, and was unable to find a decent balance all day.

There were still glum looks chez Honda, with Jenson Button 15th on 1m 37.578s and Rubens Barrichello only 21st on 1m 39.713s. “Well, a tough day really trying to find a balance,” Button said, while Barrichello confined himself to a terse, “It’s simply a case that we have had a very bad day.”

Tonio Liuzzi (1m 37.855s) felt that Toro Rosso made some improvements in the STR02’s performance in the slower sections of the course, and that the car was beginning to react “quite nicely,” but they are still trying to make up for lost testing time. Scott Speed (1m 38.650s) had to set up the unused T-car in the morning, and never really got a good crack at the track. It is too soon for Giorgio Ascanelli to have made much impression as the new technical director here, but the former McLaren and Ferrari man has always been highly rated.

Despite not testing here last week, Spyker saw Adrian Sutil take 19th place on 1m 38.334s, which was a good performance given that it was his first time at the track and that there was little set-up data to go on. Christijan Albers was left stranded on 1m 39.807s after his tyre problem. Subsequent investigation revealed it to have suffered nothing more sinister than a puncture.