Alonso pips Hamilton to dominate Singapore practice
FORMULA ONE: SINGAPORE, Sept 27, 2008 - Two-time world champion
Fernando Alonso stunned Lewis Hamilton to grab the fastest time in
opening practice for the Singapore Grand Prix Friday, driving supremely
under lights for the first time.
The British world championship leader was the pace-setter in the
first session around the bumpy Marina
Bay street circuit and looked to have sewn up the second before
Alonso pipped him on the last lap.
The Spaniard hurled his Renault around the track in 1:45.654, 0.098
ahead of the McLaren driver.
It was marginally slower than the 1:45.518 Hamilton drove in the
first free practice.
Felipe Massa in a Ferrari, who is one point behind Hamilton in the
title race with four Grand Prix left, was third fastest.
Hamilton's McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen was fourth with
Williams' Nico Rosberg fifth, and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica six.
Defending champion Kimi Raikkonen came seventh.
Rain pelted Singapore Friday morning but it had cleared by evening
with the track dry and the weather hot and humid as the drivers clocked
as many laps as possible to familiarise themselves with the circuit and
conditions. Not everyone found the going easy.
Australia's Mark Webber in a Red Bull became the first Singapore
casualty, crashing into the barriers on turn 18 during his fifth lap of
the first session.
His front right wheel was mangled but he walked away unscathed,
though failed to appear for the second session.
Numerous other cars had close shaves with Rosberg and teammate Kazuki
Nakajima both spinning, while Sebastian Vettel, the surprise winner of
the last Grand Prix in Italy, lost control of his car twice.
He recovered but could only end 13th.
BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, Renault's Nelson Piquet, and Honda's
Rubens Barrichello also had trouble controlling the car with the very
tight left-hand turn 18 most problematic, but so was the equally tricky
turn 7. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said everyone had learnt a
lot about the circuit.
"There is very little room for error, the drivers are right on the
edge out there," he said.
"It was bumpy and quick in places - all traits of a street circuit. I
think everyone learnt a great deal today."
Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger added that it was a spectacular
experience, racing after dark and with the grandstands full of people
for a practice session. "It was a great experience with the lights, very
special and made a fantastic show for the spectators," he said.
"I think Formula One can be very popular here."
Rosberg set the early pace before Hamilton took charge, powering past
some of Singapore's most prominent landmarks in 1:46.080 on his third
lap. The 23-year-old kept chipping away at his time, bettering it twice
to stay top until Massa sneaked past him with 15 minutes of the
90-minute session left.
It was a defiant signal by the Brazilian who careered off the track
at turn 16 and then did the same just minutes later at turn one, forcing
him into the pits.
But Hamilton was too good, grabbing back first place with six minutes
left before Alonso came from nowwhere to prove there is still life in
the 2005 and 2006 champion. AFP