Mclaren Bounces Back
September 14, 2007 | 10:45 A.M. EST
And in the afternoon practice session at Spa, Belgium, McLaren showed they are still the team to beat.
Fernando Alonso set the fastest time for the day in second practice of 1:46.654, with his teammate Lewis Hamilton just slightly behind with 1:46.765.
"A good start to the weekend. The car feels good to drive round here, but as always there is still room for improvement," Alonso said. "We have a good idea of where we are and where we can improve, so it should be a close fight all weekend."
With four races remaining on the schedule, Alonso and Hamilton escaped penalty in the McLaren cheating debacle and are still eligible to fight for the driver's championship. The rookie Hamilton leads defending champion Alonso by a slight margin of three points. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen is third, eighteen back.
"Today we completed all our work without any problems. I love this circuit, so really enjoyed driving round here and just seeing what the MP4-22 could do. The balance of the car on this technical circuit is good, but I struggled to get a clear lap all session until the very end," Hamilton said. "That being said I could really feel a definite improvement in our overall performance since we tested here back in July."
Both of the McLaren drivers' times beat that of Raikkonen's morning chart topper of 1:47.339. Raikkonen and teammate Felipe Massa came in fourth and third, respectfully, in the afternoon session.
"Satisfied with the way thing went this morning, but a bit less happy about the afternoon would sum up my day," Raikkonen said. "This morning the car balance was very good, while we struggled a bit in the second session to find the right settings. We need to get the package we have to work better."
Massa bounced back from slight contact with a tire wall in the morning practice with a best lap of 1:46.953 in the afternoon.
"Despite losing time this morning, in the end we can call this a good day. We did some useful work on set-up and on the balance of the car and on a comparison of the two types of Bridgestone tire available to us," Massa said. "From what we could see, we are working in the right direction. Now, we have to analyze the data very carefully to be as well prepared as possible for tomorrow's qualifying and for Sunday's race."
Qualifying for Sunday's race is set for 8 a.m. (ET) Saturday, after the drivers are afforded one more practice at 5 a.m. (ET).
The Grand Prix of Belgium takes the green flag Sunday at 8 a.m. (ET) with coverage beginning on SPEED at 7:30 a.m.