Formula One: Webber leads Alonso in German Grand Prix afternoon practice

Webber LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC
Mark Webber paced Friday afternoon Formula One practice.

By ADAM COOPER on 7/22/2011

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Red Bull Racing and Ferrari on Friday shared the honors during the first day of practice for Sunday's German Grand Prix, as Ferrari showed that its British Grand Prix win two weeks ago was no fluke. Fernando Alonso led Mark Webber in the morning session, and then the Aussie led the Spaniard in the afternoon, though only by 0.168 second.

Meanwhile, in both sessions, Sebastian Vettel was a close third, and Felipe Massa was a slightly more distant fourth, indicating that this race weekend is likely to be all about the two teams.

Significantly, Ferrari is quick at the Nürburgring GP circuit despite the return of exhaust-blown diffusers, after the one-off clampdown on the technology for the British GP.

Although the skies on Friday were gray, no rain fell, but it is virtually guaranteed to come down at some point during the weekend.

“It was good fun. Obviously, the circuit was quite slippery, the temperatures being low,” Vettel said, enjoying his first home race as reigning world champion. “All in all, I think we did a lot of laps, and the cars seem to be OK. We're not 100 percent happy yet. We'll see what happens tomorrow [in qualifying]. At this stage, [there is] obviously a lot of work ahead. Ferrari looks very competitive; McLaren is a bit more difficult to judge, so we'll see.

“I think if we can make a step forward, then it's worth a lot. We don't know the conditions for tomorrow and Sunday. Rain is forecasted, so it's on the way. It's a question of where and when it will hit us. Now we need to sit down and see what we can improve, but surely I think there is room to improve.”

In the afternoon's faster session, Michael Schumacher gave his German fans something to cheer with fifth place, ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg.

Lewis Hamilton was only seventh for McLaren, complaining that a lack of downforce was simply costing the silver cars speed in the corners--and it's not something that can be resolved overnight. Jenson Button, who had an exhaust failure and missed gaining some useful mileage, was only 11th.

With blown diffusers back in action, the Renaults looked good in eighth and ninth, with Nick Heidfeld ahead of Vitaly Petrov. The former was trying a new rearward-facing exhaust layout, instead of the usual side exit. Adrian Sutil rounded out the top 10 for Force India.

Karun Chandhok is having his first full race weekend for Team Lotus and was 20th in the afternoon session. His countryman Narain Karthikeyan returned after missing Silverstone, but only as a test driver in the first session before handing the HRT car to Tonio Liuzzi.

Practice Times

1. Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing-Renault, 1 minute 31.711 seconds, 34 laps

2. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:31.879, +0.168, 38

3. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing-Renault, 1:32.084, +0.373, 28

4. Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 1:32.354, +0.643, 36

5. Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP, 1:32.411, +0.700, 31

6. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP, 1:32.557, +0.846, 32

7. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, 1:32.724, +1.013, 28

8. Nick Heidfeld, Renault, 1:33.098, +1.387, 17

9. Vitaly Petrov, Renault, 1:33.138, +1.427, 22

10. Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes, 1:33.211, +1.500, 34

11. Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes, 1:33.225, +1.514, 17

12. Paul Di Resta, Force India-Mercedes, 1:33.299, +1.588, 34

13. Sergio Pérez, Sauber-Ferrari, 1:34.113, +2.402, 34

14. Rubens Barrichello, Williams-Cosworth, 1:34.344, +2.633, 34

15. Jaime Alguersuari, Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari, 1:34.487, +2.776, 37

16. Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber-Ferrari, 1:34.491, +2.780, 35

17. Pastor Maldonado, Williams-Cosworth, 1:34.996, +3.285, 35

18. Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus-Renault, 1:35.753, +4.042, 42

19. Timo Glock, Virgin-Cosworth 1:36.940, +5.229, 32

20. Karun Chandhok, Lotus-Renault, 1:37.248, +5.537, 33

21. Jerome d'Ambrosio, Virgin-Cosworth, 1:37.313, +5.602, 33

22. Vitantonio Liuzzi, HRT-Cosworth, 1:38.145, +6.434, 31

23. Daniel Ricciardo, HRT-Cosworth, 1:40.737, +9.026, 5

24. Sébastien Buemi, Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari, no time, 3

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