Alonso seizes Spanish initiative 12 May 2006
World champion Fernando Alonso was the fastest race driver in Friday afternoons second practice session at the Circuit de Catalunya. In front of a huge home crowd, the Spaniard finished third in his Renault, behind Hondas and Red Bulls respective third drivers, Anthony Davidson and Robert Doornbos. Archrival Michael Schumacher was sixth.
Although the times set by the two Ferraris late in the mornings session remained unbeaten, second practice - run on a bone dry track throughout - arguably gave a clearer picture of the teams true Barcelona pace (only nine cars recorded a time in the morning - and six of those were third drivers).
Davidson led the way at the end of the afternoon, the Englishman lapping his RA106 in 1m 16.533s. Doornbos, who survived an early excursion into the gravel, had moved to the top of the times in the closing stages, only to be beaten by Davidsons final effort.
In their wake, Alonso boosted Renaults hopes with third best time of 1m 16.860s to upstage Alexander Wurz on 1m 17.075s. Wurz's Williams team admitted they had perhaps taken the wrong set-up direction on his car and that left the Ausrian third driver just ahead of compatriot Christian Klien on 1m 17.086s in the second Red Bull RB2.
A quietly confident Michael Schumacher was frequently the fastest in sector one for Ferrari, though his efforts yielded only the sixth fastest time of 1m 17.100s. Giancarlo Fisichella (1m 17.291s), who complained of a lack of grip in his Renault, Hondas Jenson Button (1m 17.414s), team mate Rubens Barrichello (1m 17.417s) and Toyotas Ralf Schumacher (1m 17.506s) rounded out the top 10.
Jarno Trulli was right behind his Toyota team mate on 1m 17.610s and Nick Heidfeld improved in his BMW Sauber to 1m 17.622s, chased by Friday team mate Robert Kubica on 1m 17.844s. Williams Mark Webber (1m 17.908s) and McLarens Kimi Raikkonen (1m 17.933s) were the final runners under 1m 18s. Raikkonen did not go out until the final seven minutes.
His team mate Juan Pablo Montoya generated one of the few incidents. Having gone out with 11 minutes left, the Colombian found his left mirror shaking loose and may yet have to face the stewards after appearing to help it fall overboard while travelling down the main straight. His best lap of 1m 18.261s left him 18th overall, but assuredly we did not see McLarens full hand today.
Separating the silver arrows were BMW Saubers Jacques Villeneuve (1m 18.007s) and Ferraris Felipe Massa (1m 18.223s). Villeneuve already has a ten-place grid penalty for an engine change and so worked on preparations for starting the race with a heavy fuel load. Massa, meanwhile, was seemingly just as satisfied with progress as his illustrious team mate, despite a significantly slower time.
Nico Rosberg was 19th for Williams with 1m 18.283s from David Coulthard in the third Red Bull on 1m 18.410s. Neel Jani led the Toro Rossos with 1m 18.774s, leaving Scott Speed 23rd on 1m 19.257s and Tonio Liuzzi 24th on 1m 19.334s. Giorgio Mondini moved ahead of them near the end with a lap of 1m 18.910s in his Midland.
The remaining Midlands of Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro were mixed in with Super Aguris Takuma Sato and Franck Montagny. Albers pushed his Midland round in 1m 19.358s to head a satisfied Sato with 1m 19.616s. Meanwhile, Monteiros 1m 20.311s came despite an understeer problem and put him ahead of Montagny on 1m 22.222s, the Frenchman also complaining of a number of handling issues on his SA05.