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Friday analysis - Hamilton ahead, but for how long? 18 Jul 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 18 July 2008 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 18 July 2008 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2008.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 18 July 2008 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Force India F1 VJM01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 18 July 2008 Kazuki Nakajima (JPN) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Practice Day, Hockenheim, Germany, Friday, 18 July 2008

Overcast conditions, some rain, a drying track and changing winds conspired to create conditions at Hockenheim on Friday that were very different to those at the test here last week. Thus all of the teams were obliged to rethink their set-ups on a generally difficult day. At the end of it all, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton emerged as the clear leader - in terms of pace at least. However, with so many variables entering the equation, Saturday’s qualifying session could yet prove a very different affair. We take a team-by-team look at day one in Germany…

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 15.537s, P1/1m 15.025s, P1
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 15.666s, P2/1m 15.990s, P4

Hamilton said that his MP4-23 did not feel as stable in the afternoon as it did in the morning, probably because of the changing weather conditions, but by the end of the session it was behaving more consistently and he was able to get the quickest time out of it. Kovalainen was also unhappy with the rear end of his car until a series of small changes tamed it as the afternoon session progressed and he could push harder.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 15.796s, P3/1m 15.722s, P2
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 16.327s, P5/1m 15.760s, P3

Massa was happy that he could be competitive in both sessions, and was not at all worried about the gap to Hamilton. Raikkonen did plenty of race trim running and said he was reasonably pleased with the way his day went. Expect Ferrari to fight strongly with McLaren in qualifying.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 17.268s, P14/1m 16.017s, P5
David Coulthard, 1m 17.108s, P11/1m 16.378s, P10

Webber got less running than he wanted after experiencing an electrical glitch in the afternoon, but was able to draw on last week’s test experience to obtain a decent set-up that yielded fifth fastest time that session. Coulthard indirectly said that he had graining on his Bridgestones, on the green track.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 16.163s, P4/1m 16.230s, P6
Nelson Piquet, 1m 17.063s, P10/1m 16.734s, P15

Alonso described this as a ‘normal day without any difficulties,’ but wants an improved balance on his Renault R28 tomorrow. Piquet said he made good progress on set-up.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 16.606s, P6/1m 16.355s, P7
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 16.821s, P9/1m 16.829s, P17

Rosberg was much happier that the FW30 was on a circuit that suited it better than Magny-Cours and Silverstone, and revelled in some new aero and mechanical updates tried at the recent test. Nakajima shadowed him in the morning, but suffered a misfire that restricted his performance in the afternoon.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 18.779s P19/1m 16.363s, P8
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 16.719s, P8/1m 16.377s, P9

Kubica was lucky that his morning mistake - when he got a wheel on a slippery white line - did not really cost him much dry-road running time. He was able to make up time in the afternoon. Heidfeld found the balance of his F1.08 better than it had been in last week’s test, and was happy once again to be close to his team mate on pace.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 16.618s, P7/1m 16.422s, P11
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 21.506s, P20/1m 16.860s, P18

Vettel said that the rain had washed away much of the rubber that gave the track grip at the test, and that he struggled as a result in the afternoon. But he was happy with his Toro Rosso’s handling and balance. Bourdais lost time in the morning with a flywheel sensor problem that stranded him in Turn Four, and then with gearbox gremlins in the afternoon.

Toyota
Jarno Trulli, 1m 17.556s, P17/1m 16.530s, P12
Timo Glock, 1m 17.185s, P13/1m 16.781s, P16

Trulli’s day went without any hitches as he gathered the usual aerodynamic and tyre data. Glock had a similar time, except for his aerial job when he ran very wide exiting the final corner and got bounced around heavily like he did in the race in Melbourne.

Honda
Jenson Button, 1m 17.131s, P12/1m 16.542s, P13
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 17.500s, P16/1m 16.677s, P14

Button said he made useful progress on set-up and tyre evaluation, but still isn’t happy with the balance of his RA108. Barrichello achieved the latter in the morning but found it going off as conditions changed in the afternoon. He had two spins as he sought a ‘driveable set-up’.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 17.784s, P18/1m 17.008s, P19
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 17.471s, P15/1m 17.047s, P20

Sutil found his car a different proposition to the test, and struggled with both understeer and oversteer on the relatively gripless surface. Fisichella likewise reported inconsistent balance.