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Friday analysis - Alonso gets Renault off to a French flyer 20 Jun 2008

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, Friday, 20 June 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, Friday, 20 June 2008 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Toro Rosso and Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, Friday, 20 June 2008 (L to R): Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren with Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, Friday, 20 June 2008 David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing RB4.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, Friday, 20 June 2008

It’s been a tough year so far for Renault and if there’s one place they’d like to change that, then it must be here in France in front of the team’s home crowd. And on Friday Fernando Alonso got their Magny-Cours weekend off to an excellent start as he topped second practice. Ominously, however, neither Ferrari nor McLaren seemed particularly concerned and of the big guns, only championship leader Robert Kubica reported technical problems, the Pole struggling with the balance of his BMW Sauber…

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 16.400s, P6/1m 15.778s, P1
Nelson Piquet, 1m 17.063s, P11,/1m 16.543s, P9

Alonso blew his engine at the end of the morning session, but bounced back to head the afternoon’s times. He was the first to admit that owed much to respective fuel loads, but the Spaniard said he was happy enough with the performance of his R28 with some new parts trialled first in last week’s test in Barcelona. Piquet showed an improvement in form, mainly staying on the track and gathering valuable data.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 15.306s, P1/1m 15.854s, P2
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 16.073s, P4/1m 15.999, P3

Apart from a stiff neck, Massa was happy with the way his day went, focusing on set-up work and tyre evaluation. He found it a little harder to balance the car on Bridgestone’s softer rubber, but felt some of that was due to the usual dirtiness of the track on a Friday. Raikkonen was also happy, though the felt he might have got more out of the tyres on their first lap.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 16.002s, P2/1m 16.232s, P4
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 16.055s, P3/1m 16.340s, P7

Both Hamilton and Kovalainen pushed hard enough to have some lurid off-track moments, but in general they were happy with the balance of their MP4-23s and were satisfied that they can be competitive this weekend.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 16.838s, P8/1m 16.298s, P5
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 17.683s, P16/1m 16.758s, P13

Vettel was in strong form all day, albeit with an unknown fuel load. He was very happy with his STR3’s pace, and the fact that changes brought improvement each time. Bourdais struggled initially with set-up, and ran a different programme to Vettel in the afternoon.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 16.377s, P5/1m 16.317s, P6
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 16.870s, P9/ 1m 16.458s, P8

Undisclosed technical problems hampered Kubica in the afternoon and cost him track time, and he described the balance of his F1.08 as ‘strange’, making it difficult to drive. Heidfeld had a trouble-free day and completed his tyre evaluation and set-up programme. Right at the end, however, he landed badly after running over a kerb, and thought he had damaged his car.

Red Bull
David Coulthard, 1m 17.234s, P12/1m 16.572s, P10
Mark Webber, 1m 17.269s, P13/1m 17.106s, P16

Coulthard worked his way through a spell of front tyre graining as the track rubbered in, and said he had an otherwise normal Friday. Webber struggled to get comfortable with his RB4, and was grateful that it was only Friday as he worked away on the set-up.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 17.394s, P14/1m 16.682s, P11
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 17.696s, P17/1m 17.002s, P14

Rosberg felt that Williams made a lot of progress during the day, as his crew changed the set-up quite significantly to eradicate slight oversteer. Nakajima struggled to find grip early on, but likewise made progress later.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 16.758s, P7/1m 16.743s, P12
Timo Glock, 1m 16.886s, P10/1m 17.092s, P15

Trulli still felt there was more set-up work to do on his TF108 by the time the second session ended, while Glock’s weekend got off to a poor start as he struggled to generate tyre temperature and to avoid graining.

Honda
Jenson Button, 1m 17.928s, P18/1m 17.244s, P17
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 17.491s, P15/1m 17.591s, P19

Once again both Honda drivers were fighting for grip and balance, and ran well down the order, despite their hopes of performing well here following last week’s test.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 18.072s, P19/1m 17.394s, P18
Adrian Sutil, 1m 18.673s, P20/1m 17.868s, P20

Fisichella fought understeer in the high-speed corners, while Sutil had a few brake problems which required the callipers to be changed for the second session, in which he reported that his VJM01 lacked grip.