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McLaren move ahead of Ferrari in final practice 30 Jun 2007

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, Friday, 29 June 2007 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari F2007.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, Friday, 29 June 2007 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault R27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, Friday, 29 June 2007 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.07.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Practice Day, Magny-Cours, France, Friday, 29 June 2007

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton only did eight laps of Magny-Cours this morning but they were sufficient to put him ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, who did twice the distance.

There was a seven-minute hiatus after 25 minutes when a piece of artificial grass on the exit to one turn started to detach itself. At this stage neither of the McLarens had ventured out for timed runs, and Massa had just started his first.

Charlie Whiting and Herbie Blash from the F€A went out to investigate, and after the offending material was removed the session resumed.

Massa immediately jumped ahead of Raikkonen to take the fastest time, with 1m 15.422s, but with Hamilton right behind the Finn’s 1m 15.614s with 1m 15.625s things began to look interesting.

Then there was a near miss when Raikkonen came in for a pit stop. He had just passed the Williams of Alex Wurz, but as they went into the pit lane Wurz repassed the surprised Ferrari driver, who just managed to avoid a collision.

Massa retained the upper hand with 1m 15.031s until Hamilton became the first man to lap the track this year below 1m 15s, with 1m 14.843s on Bridgestone’s soft rubber. Similarly equipped, Massa improved subsequently to 1m 14.906s, but the silver car stayed ahead by 0.063s. Raikkonen also went quicker, but 1m 15.276s left him third ahead of the Renaults of Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella, with 1m 15.404s and 1m 15.489s respectively. Robert Kubica maintained the BMW Sauber defence against Renault with sixth fastest time of 1m 15.535s, to head Nico Rosberg, who lapped in 1n 15.735s for Williams.

Once again you had to go down to eighth place to find Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard did not go out until two and a half minutes remained, after his crew worked on bleeding his McLaren’s brakes for much of the session, and managed only 1m 15.742s.

The top 10 was rounded out by Jarno Trulli on 1m 15.801s for Toyota and David Coulthard on 1m 15.802s for Red Bull, the Scot having stable mate Tonio Liuzzi on his heels in the Toro Rosso on 1m 15.872s. 1m 15.902s earned Jenson Button 12th fastest time for Honda, ahead of Super Aguri’s Anthony Davidson (1m 15.925s) and birthday boy Ralf Schumacher (1m 15.944s) in the second Toyota. Nick Heidfeld was out for BMW Sauber, despite his Friday back scare, and recorded 1m 16.060s in 18 laps for 15th overall. Honda’s Rubens Barrichello came next on 1m 16.102s, chased by Wurz (1m 16.104s), Toro Rosso’s Scott Speed (1m 16.161s), Super Aguri’s Takuma Sato (1m 16.221s) and Red Bull’s Mark Webber (1m 16.573s).

At the back, Adrian Sutil took his Spyker round in 1m 17.517s, just ahead of team mate Christijan Albers on 1m 17.705s.

So, battle can now be considered engaged between McLaren and the improved Ferrari team, in what promises to be a gripping qualifying session this afternoon.