Rosberg and Kovalainen on top in Istanbul
Former GP2 title rivals Nico Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen shared the honours in FP1 and FP2 today at Istanbul Park.
Rosberg topped the first session, the 10th time he has topped a practice session this season, heading Heikki’s team mate Lewis Hamilton and Jarno Trulli in the seemingly revitalised Toyota. Of the expected race contenders, Sebastian Vettel was the top man in 4th, with Felipe Massa 5th, Kimi Raikkonen 7th, Rubens Barrichello 9th, Jenson Button 11th and Mark Webber 15th. The session was briefly red-flagged when a section of astroturf on the exit of turn 1 came lose and there were a few excursions but no major incidents.
Kovalainen then followed up Hamilton’s 2nd place by going fastest in the second session, the first time he has topped a practice since Hockenheim last year. He was followed by Fernando Alonso in 2nd and Robert Kubica in a surprising and confidence-boosting 3rd. Vettel was again top of the contenders in 5th but spent most of the session on the sidelines after only appearing on track for the first time 20 minutes into the session due to a gear ratio change and stopping 10 minutes later with driveshaft failure. Barrichello was up in 8th, Webber a more positive 9th, Massa 11th, Button 12th just ahead of Hamilton, who spun twice, and Raikkonen this time taking up 15th position.
Although you can’t read into practice times at all, Ross Brawn’s positive comments about Ferrari would lead you to believe they may be contenders this weekend with Brawn and Red Bull. Massa bettered his team mate’s times in both sessions and is on that 3 race winning streak here at Istanbul. As for the Red Bulls, Vettel’s pace was more impressive but that’s not to rule Webber out. Mark topped FP3 here last year, the last time he topped a session, and qualified a superb 6th, whilst Vettel also dragged the Toro Rosso into Q2 and topped FP2 here back in 2006 on his debut as BMW Sauber 3rd driver, so both drivers have form here. But the Brawns will be the cars to beat. Barrichello edged out Button today, so that probably means Jenson will pinch his setup, lurk around in Q1 and Q2, and then bang in a pole lap in the dying moments and pretend that it was difficult.