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Alonso speeds, Vettel impresses in first practice 15 Jun 2007

Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Indianapolis, USA, Thursday, 14 June 2007 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Practice Day, Indianapolis, USA, Friday, 15 June 2007 (L to R): Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1 with Dr Mario Theissen (GER) BMW Sauber F1 Team Principal and Sebastian Vettel (GER) BMW Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Practice Day, Indianapolis, USA, Friday, 15 June 2007 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren fans.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Practice Day, Indianapolis, USA, Friday, 15 June 2007 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Practice Day, Indianapolis, USA, Friday, 15 June 2007

Friday morning saw Fernando Alonso reassert himself over McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), in the opening practice session for the US Grand Prix.

At one stage the first six cars - the McLarens, the BMW Saubers and the Ferraris - were only six-tenths of a second apart, but then the Spaniard hit his stride to go clear with a lap of 1m 11.925s. That compares with Michael Schumacher’s 2006 pole position lap of 1m 10.832s.

This time it was not Hamilton who got closest; that honour fell to Nick Heidfeld who looked very strong in the BMW Sauber on his way to 1m 12.391s. His only drama was a momentary deviation from the grey stuff on one lap. Backing him strongly, new-for-this-race team mate Sebastian Vettel pushed his way up to fourth place on 1m 12.869s, without putting a wheel wrong.

Hamilton split the BMWs with 1m 12.628s on his first run at IMS, and was quite pleased with his progress. Twice he went two-tenths of a second below Alonso when a lap of 1m 12.344s from the Spaniard was the fastest, but each time he lost ground in Turn 6.

It was a tough morning for Ferrari, with Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa both going off course briefly. The Finn was fifth quickest on 1m 12.966s, the Brazilian seventh on 1m 13.040s. Massa was on a lap that should have taken him higher, but got blocked by Spyker’s Christijan Albers and had to abort it. Right at the end Nico Rosberg squeezed his Williams between them, with 1m 13.020s.

David Coulthard was another late improver, jumping up to eighth for Red Bull with 1m 13.159s to depose his friend Jenson Button, who found the Honda better than of late on his way to 1m 13.597s. Mark Webber also improved near the end, to ninth fastest for Red Bull with 1m 13.682s, ahead of Jarno Trulli on 1m 13.777s in the Toyota.

Kazuki Nakajima stood in at Williams for Alex Wurz this morning, and leapt from last to an eventual 12th with a lap of 1m 13.786s, pushing Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota down a place after the German had posted 1m 13.819s early in the session. Then came the two Toro Rossos, with Tonio Liuzzi 14th on 1m 13.907s and Scott Speed on his tail with 1m 13.990s.

You had to go down to 16th place to find the first Renault, Giancarlo Fisichella lapping his R27 in 1m 14.000s to pip Takuma Sato’s 1m 14.037s for Super Aguri. Then came Honda’s Rubens Barrichello (1m 14.052s), Renault’s Heikki Kovalainen (1m 14.189s), Anthony Davidson (who did 1m 14.632s early on but thereafter did not get back out in the Super Aguri), Albers (1m 14.636s) and Spyker team mate Adrian Sutil (who spoiled his chances of improving on 1m 14.810s with a spin).