Rain-hit Spa puts Kimi in the wall and leaves Massa licking his lips
The chaotic Ardenne climate could prove to be the perfect antidote to Valencia’s action-less race if opening practice at Spa Francorchamps is anything to go by.
Fernando Alonso emerged on top at the end of a rain-soaked afternoon, but a rejuvenated Felipe Massa, fresh from victory in Valencia, had the jump on his title rivals throughout the day.
Heavy showers in the afternoon wrecked havoc with the timing sheet and sent multiple drivers ploughing into the arcmo, most notably Kimi Raikkonen, the man with everything to do this weekend – and just about everyone watching.
Alonso edged out Massa and the two McLarens as the track dried, but not before several drivers succumbed to the treacherous conditions.
Mark Webber was the first to drop out of the fray after losing control of his Red Bull at Rivage, just as the rain began to fall at its hardest. The drivers spent the next half hour in the pits before venturing out again as the conditions improved.
Kimi Raikkonen was the next big causality of the session. The Finn lost control at Turn 9 and pitched his Ferrari into the armco. Despite losing his rear wing, he managed to get his F2008 facing the right way and nursed it back to the pits, but not before putting down a large amount of fluid and water from his ruptured tyres.
“I clipped the kerb and the surface was a bit slippery there because of the rain,” explained Raikkonen. “I ended up spinning and then hitting the barrier. Unfortunately, not only did the rear wing break, but the floor was also damaged and it could not be repaired in time.”
Giancarlo Fissichella brought out the red flags moments later when he slipped up on the wet patch and careered into the armco on the opposite side of the track.
And just before the session was stopped to retrieve the Force India and sweep up the pool of water, Fernando Alonso ran into the gravel at Stavelot.
It was only in the dying minutes that the times really began to improve with Heikki Kovalainen pipping Lewis Hamilton to the top spot momentarily, before Alonso punched in a 1:48.454 to go quickest.
Massa, who set the pace in the morning warm up, managed to go second quickest, but with the drizzle again beginning to fall, Alonso was able to hold on to P1.
A late effort from Nico Rosberg saw him vault up to sixth behind the Ferraris, McLarens and Alonso’s Renault, while Sebastian Vettel continued to underline his form by lapping seventh.
Wet weather specialist Adrian Sutil was a solid eighth place for Force India with Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld completing the top ten.