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Friday analysis - who can catch Ferrari? 25 Apr 2008

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 25 April 2008 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 25 April 2008 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 25 April 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 25 April 2008 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB4.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 25 April 2008

Much like at last week’s test at the track, drawing conclusions from Friday practice at the Circuit de Catalunya was not straightforward. Changing conditions and varied programmes meant some unexpected names in unexpected places, particularly in the afternoon session, when fast times proved harder to come by.

So have Renault really made the big step forward they predicted? Are McLaren really off the pace? One thing’s for certain, world champions Ferrari will still be the team to beat this weekend…

Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 20.649s, P1/1m 21.935s, P1
Felipe Massa, 1m 20.699s, P2/1m 22.228s, P5

Raikkonen said he was very happy with his car’s balance and reliability, and dominated both sessions. Despite spinning on his first flyer in the morning and flat-spotting a tyre, Massa was close, but traffic hindered him in the afternoon. It was the Brazilian’s birthday and he wants to give himself a nice present on Sunday. On today’s form that looks more than likely, as Ferrari are clearly very strong here.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 21.933s, P6/1m 22.032, P3
Nelson Piquet Jnr, 1m 21.936s, P7/1m 22.019s, P2

Both drivers focused on finishing off work begun at last week’s test, trying different configurations in both sessions. With more wind and less grip, however, conditions were different which called for further compromises. Alonso said he was satisfied with his day’s work, while Piquet said he was very happy. With a good second place in the afternoon, he might well have been.

Williams
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 23.153s, P15/1m 22.172s, P4
Nico Rosberg, 1m 23.003, P12/1m 22.266s, P7

Like Renault, Williams enjoyed a one-two moment in the afternoon. Nakajima was very happy with his day, which included trying different set-ups in both sessions. Rosberg said he tried something which definitely didn’t work in the morning, but that his FW30 felt better straight away once that had been changed for the afternoon. He thought that the balance could still be improved, however.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 23.015s, P13/1m 22.238s, P6
David Coulthard, 1m 22.118s, P8/1m 22.289s, P8

Despite all the factors that were changed by warmer weather and greater wind than at the recent test, Red Bull had a decent day and in their own distinctive ways both drivers said they were relatively satisfied with what they had achieved.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 23.196s, P17/1m 22.383s, P9
Adrian Sutil, 1m 23.156s, P16/1m 23.548s, P10

Force India by and large had a good day, with both drivers able to find a decent balance almost straight away and then enjoying the reliability to exploit it. They had similar problems to everyone else with the weather conditions, but after holding first and second positions for the first 30 minutes of the afternoon session they were very happy with ninth and 10th at the end of it.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 21.192s, P3/1m 22.685s, P11
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 21.758s, P5/1m 23.264s, P16

The team had to change the gearbox on Kovalainen’s car after the morning following a problem with the oil pump, and he stopped early by the side of the track in the afternoon when a problem with the throttle control caused the engine safety system to activate. Hamilton, meanwhile, admitted that he had problems with the set-up of his car, fighting oversteer all day.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 21.568s, P4/1m 22.788s, P12
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 22.278s, P9/1m 23.130s, P13

The deal at BMW Sauber was race set-up work all day, so nobody was particularly concerned about the lap times. Kubica said he needed to do a lot of running as he had been running the 2009 slicks in the test, and was pleased with the data he accumulated. Heidfeld said he had no noteworthy problems, but thought he could improve the balance for tomorrow.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 23.141s, P14/1m 23.224s, P14
Timo Glock, 1m 23.002s, P11/1m 23.883s, P20

Both drivers said they struggled all day, as the wind made their TF108s hard to set up and conditions were so totally different to the test’s. Neither of them felt they achieved a decent handling balance.

Honda
Jenson Button, 1m 22.632s, P10/1m 23.263s, P15
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 23.353s, P16/1m 23.415s, P17

Button said that all of his Friday running was crucial as he didn’t get an test mileage here last week, and said that as a result they had not arrived yet at the best set-up for the distinctive new aero package, complete with nose wings. The biggest problem was attaining a decent balance. Barrichello admitted struggling in the changed conditions to get the RA108 working as well as it had when he set fastest time during one day of the test.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 24.082s, P20/1m 23.661s, P18
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 23.952s, P19/1m 23.684s, P19

Toro Rosso expected a tough weekend running their old car, so were not surprised to be only just ahead of the Super Aguris. Vettel thought they made progress in the afternoon even if it was not reflected on the stopwatch, while Bourdais struggled when the wind changed direction for the afternoon but still thought they made a step forward too.

Super Aguri
Takuma Sato, 1m 24.278s, P21/1m 25.118s, P21
Anthony Davidson, 1m 25.068s, P21/1m 25.163s, P22

Both drivers were simply relieved to be running after the team’s pre-race financial dramas. Sato said he was reasonably happy with his car in the circumstances, while Davidson said that the balance was ‘not far off’.