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Friday, August 22, 2008

Raikkonen tops first day at Valencia

Kimi Raikkonen set fastest pace in day one of practice for the European Grand Prix at the brand new Valencia Street Circuit.

The world champion set his time in the closing seconds of the second session, but questions remain on the fresh, unknown track as Fernando Alonso pulled of a second in front of his home crowd and third went to Jenson Button in the Honda.

Raikkonen’s teammate Felipe Massa was fourth fastest, while Lewis Hamilton was fifth in the first of the McLarens.

It was Sebastian Vettel topping the charts in the first session for Toro Rosso, as drivers felt their way around the track. But as the track warmed up in the afternoon, and teams were pushing harder, times started to tumble.

Alonso left the day 10,000 euros lighter after being fined for cutting the pitlane entrance. David Coulthard also found himself penalized for speeding in the pitlane.

Overall, the circuit was well received by the F1 fraternity, drawing comparisons to American temporary street circuits from Raikkonen and Timo Glock. Alonso also had praise for the track, site of his second home race of the season.

“Well, the track I think is good,” he said. “It is not easy, quite challenging and also the last sector is quite nice to drive and you need to really concentrate to get the maximum there. We can say that it is not a normal street circuit, it is a little bit more than a street circuit.”

Team bosses Mario Theissen and Flavio Briatore had kind words for the new circuit.

“I walked the track yesterday and I can tell you it is even more challenging than to do it by car especially in the heat of lunchtime. I think they did a hell of a job,” Theissen said.

“We really need to congratulate the people of Valencia for the job they have done. I was here a few months ago and I never believed they would finish the circuit so quickly,” Briatore added. “It is an amazing job, really. The ambience is fantastic. This is another good circuit for Formula One with the boats in the harbour, the atmosphere. It is the right way to see Formula One go. I am very impressed with the job done by Valencia.”

Qualifying kicks off at 2pm local time Saturday.

A1 season delayed

A1GP announced it was postponing the start of its season after requesting a redesign of a suspension part that failed in testing, injuring test driver Patrick Friesacher.

“It was always going to be an optimistic programme but we were confident we could achieve it,” A1GP Chief Executive Officer, Pete da Silva, said. “This in no way reflects on the work undertaken by the technical team and our partners, as it was due to circumstances beyond their control. I also want to thank all our technical partners for their support during our intensive testing programme, and especially Ferrari for the supply of engines.

“We now have to concentrate on what we have ahead of us rather than behind,” he continued. “We still have some great announcements to make. In the near future we shall be able to announce our full race calendar, as well as some deals that will enhance the overall package we are presenting to our fans for Season Four.”

The first race now moves from Mugello on September 21 to Zandvoort on October 5. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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