Surprising Vettel tops Valencia practice

Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel set a shock fastest time in Friday morning practice for the European Grand Prix, as the Formula One teams began their exploration of the new Valencia street track

Surprising Vettel tops Valencia practice

Felipe Massa had to settle for second for Ferrari, while Vettel's teammate Sebastien Bourdais continued the team's stunning morning by taking fourth between the two McLarens.

With the brand new circuit still extremely dusty, the times improved by a full nine seconds over the course of the session, and can be expected to get faster still this afternoon.

The major contenders left others to clean the circuit before beginning their work, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen the first of the usual front-runners to move to the top of the times after 28 minutes with a 1:43.948.

That mark was beaten by Hungaroring podium finisher Timo Glock (Toyota) shortly afterwards, although the German then had a spin at Turn 2 immediately after setting his time. Glock was then pushed down the order as the McLarens took charge of the session, with Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton taking it in turns to lead the way.

Raikkonen briefly restored Ferrari honour by deposing Hamilton just before the hour mark, only for Hamilton to strike back with two improved times five minutes later, before Kovalainen took another turn on top when he set a 1:41.163 with six minutes to go.

But just when it looked like McLaren would end the session with a one-two, Vettel produced a remarkable lap for Toro Rosso - his 1:40.813 taking him three tenths of a second clear of Kovalainen.

Hamilton responded but was 0.009 seconds slower on his first lap and then spun on his second. Massa fared better, beating Vettel's time by 0.159 seconds and leapt to the top of the standings in the final seconds.

Vettel wasn't finished yet though, and with his last lap of the morning the young German reclaimed first position with a superb 1:40.496 effort.

Behind Massa and Hamilton, Bourdais vaulted to fourth in the closing moments, ahead of Kovalainen, with Robert Kubica completing the top six for BMW and pushing Raikkonen back to seventh.

The two Williams took eighth and 10th - Kazuki Nakajima the faster of the two and Fernando Alonso (Renault) splitting them.

Unsurprisingly many drivers took trips over the run-off areas as they acclimatised to the circuit. Jarno Trulli emulated his teammate Glock's spin, but David Coulthard was the only man to hit the barriers, putting his Red Bull into the wall on his final run.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:40.496 29 2. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:40.654 + 0.158 27 3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:40.822 + 0.326 14 4. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:41.099 + 0.603 31 5. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:41.163 + 0.667 23 6. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 1:41.281 + 0.785 24 7. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:41.317 + 0.821 27 8. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:41.329 + 0.833 26 9. Alonso Renault (B) 1:41.385 + 0.889 31 10. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:41.706 + 1.210 22 11. Barrichello Honda (B) 1:41.830 + 1.334 27 12. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:41.930 + 1.434 27 13. Sutil Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:41.951 + 1.455 23 14. Glock Toyota (B) 1:42.036 + 1.540 27 15. Piquet Renault (B) 1:42.107 + 1.611 32 16. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) 1:42.453 + 1.957 23 17. Button Honda (B) 1:42.460 + 1.964 29 19. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:43.075 + 2.579 25 19. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:43.312 + 2.816 23 20. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:43.524 + 3.028 24 
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Series Formula 1
Drivers Sebastian Vettel
Author Matt Beer
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