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Friday analysis - McLaren-Ferrari battle returns to the track 14 Sep 2007

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 14 September 2007 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 14 September 2007 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF107.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 14 September 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 14 September 2007 (L to R): Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1 with Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Belgian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Friday, 14 September 2007

Ferrari were fastest in practice on Friday morning, McLaren in the afternoon, but in truth there is very little to choose between the two bitterly divided teams thus far during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

The silver cars set the fastest times overall, 1m 46.654s for Fernando Alonso, 1m 46.765s for Lewis Hamilton. The former said he was very happy with the way all of his set-up work had gone; the latter said he kept getting traffic on his quick laps, and when he finally got a good one in right at the end, a slight dose of oversteer in Turn Eight prevented him beating Alonso’s time.

Felipe Massa was third on 1m 46.953s, Kimi Raikkonen fourth on 1m 47.166s which fractionally improved his fastest time from the morning. In that session the Brazilian lost control of his Ferrari at Rivage and slid lightly into head-on contact with the outer tyre wall; he blamed pushing too hard on cold tyres.

In the afternoon Massa said he was quite content with the work he’d been able to do, but Raikkonen felt his F2007 lacked the poise it had shown in the morning.

The afternoon proved to be good for Toyota, with Jarno Trulli fifth on 1m 47.491s and Ralf Schumacher sixth on 1m 47.946s. Neither had any particular problems and they were able to pick up where they left off during the test here in July.

Renault had mixed fortunes. Giancarlo Fisichella was seventh on 1m 48.088s and Heikki Kovalainen 10th on 1m 48.567s. Fisichella said he thought Renault’s situation was “getting better and better,” but Kovalainen met traffic on his best lap and didn’t think his time was fully representative.

Mark Webber got in a decent lap of 1m 48.271s for Red Bull in the afternoon, after struggling with set-up on his RB3 in the morning. He thought the car better in the second session, but simply not fast enough. David Coulthard got down to 1m 48.883s for 13th fastest time in the afternoon, before a hydraulic failure left him without power steering or gearshift actuation and obliged him to park at Eau Rouge.

The BMW Saubers were fourth (Nick Heidfeld) and sixth (Robert Kubica) in the morning, but dropped to ninth and 11th respectively in the afternoon, when the Pole lapped in 1m 48.279s and the German 1m 48.606s. Neither was satisfied with the feel and balance of their F1.07s, and were frustrated that they had lost the poise they exhibited when they were very quick in the July test here.

Williams had Nico Rosberg and Alex Wurz fourth and seventh in the morning, but only 12th and 16th in the afternoon. The FW29 had been tricky here in the test, and after the recent upbeat runs in Istanbul and Monza they were disappointed to find that the cars were still a handful here.

Honda had a fillip when Jenson Button made the top 10 this morning, but the Englishman dropped to 14th in the afternoon despite improving to 1m 48.919s. Rubens Barrichello was 15th on 1m 49.364s. They ran through the usual gamut of things before concluding that the RA107 simply wasn’t quick enough.

Sakon Yamamoto was Spyker’s star this afternoon, with a lap of 1m 49.697s which left him 17th, ahead of the Toro Rossos and the Super Aguris. He found the B-spec F8-VII a big step forward from the A-spec car, and was happier than team mate Adrian Sutil who was only 20th on 1m 50.399s as he complained of problems obtaining a good handling balance and spent his time yawing between understeer and oversteer.

Sebastian Vettel set the pace for Toro Rosso after Tonio Liuzzi slid off the road at Rivage in the morning, and again, with 1m 49.720s when the Italian’s engine dropped a valve after nine laps and left him on 1m 50.865s. They were 18th and 22nd respectively.

Neither of the Super Aguri drivers was happy, each struggling to balance their SA07. Takuma Sato was 19th on 1m 50.188s, Anthony Davidson 21st on 1m 50.642s.