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Friday analysis - Ferrari expecting a tough fight for pole 20 Jul 2007

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, European Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2007 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF107 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, European Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2007 (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren with team mate Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, European Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2007 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB3.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, European Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2007 Markus Winkelhock (GER) Spyker F8 VII goes off into the gravel
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, European Grand Prix, Practice Day, Nurburgring, Germany, Friday, 20 July 2007

McLaren and Ferrari ended the first day of practice at the Nurburgring pretty evenly matched, as a mere 0.139s separated fastest man Kimi Raikkonen and challenger Lewis Hamilton.

Everyone’s task was made trickier when it rained hard at lunchtime, washing away some of the rubber that had been laid down in the morning, and leaving the second session to start on a drying track.

The honours went Hamilton’s way in the dry morning session, 1m 32.515s to 1m 32.751s; and Raikkonen’s, with five minutes to spare, in the afternoon, 1m 33.339s to 1m 33.478s.

The Finn said he was “reasonably happy” with the way his day had gone, while adding that Ferrari will only really know where they are relative to McLaren come qualifying on Saturday. He feels there can be an improvement in his F2007’s handling, but added that it felt good on both Bridgestone’s medium and soft tyres.

Team mate Felipe Massa was fourth fastest in the morning and third, on 1m 33.590s, in the afternoon. Like Raikkonen, he believed Ferrari are competitive, but both expect a very tight battle for pole with McLaren.

Hamilton was quite nonchalant, finding a good balance early on in the MP4-22, and said he was generally encouraged by the new aerodynamic changes made for this event. He did make two errors, however, spinning in Turn 10 and later running off the road in Turn Five.

Fernando Alonso was third fastest in the morning and then fourth in the afternoon in the other McLaren, on 1m 33.637s, so the usual symmetry of the two top teams at the head of the field was maintained. After fighting with low grip and oversteer initially, the Spaniard felt his car’s balance was improved steadily.

Toyota were generally content with their performance, as Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli were respectively seventh and 11th in the morning and fifth and sixth in the afternoon.

There was encouraging news for Jenson Button and Honda, as the Englishman set eighth fastest time in both sessions. He reported more work to be done on long runs, but that the revamped RA107 worked well on both types of tyre. Team mate Rubens Barrichello was 10th in the morning and 14th in the afternoon.

BMW Sauber had an up and down day. Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica were fourth and fifth in the morning, and only ninth and 10th in the afternoon when they focused mainly on race running.

At Red Bull David Coulthard was the lead runner with ninth in the morning, despite chasing down some understeer, and the situation was reversed when Mark Webber was 11th in the afternoon as the Scot lapsed to 17th. Webber is confident of qualifying in the top 10.

Williams were cautiously encouraged by Nico Rosberg’s seventh-fastest time in the afternoon. Alex Wurz was 12th in both sessions. Rosberg said he wasn’t completely happy with his FW29, but that they had tried a lot of different options that should stand them in good stead on Saturday.

Super Aguri had Anthony Davidson 14th in the morning and 18th in the afternoon, Takuma Sato 16th and 13th in the same respective sessions.

It was also an odd day for Renault. The reigning champions saw Heikki Kovalainen edge out Giancarlo Fisichella for 18th place in the morning, and the Italian return the favour for 15th in the afternoon. The focus of the day here was evaluating tyre performance, and both drivers expect to be a lot quicker for qualifying.

The Toro Rossos struggled again for pace, as did the Spykers. The former are still not clear about their performance on each type of tyre, while the latter had Adrian Sutil fighting oversteer as he couldn’t get enough heat into the tyres, and Markus Winkelhock chasing his tail after only a day’s testing so far this season. He didn’t help matters by losing 25 minutes stuck in a gravel trap after spinning in the afternoon.