Alonso's Renault puts the smile back on French faces

When you aren't winning races, what's the best thing you can give your supporters in your home race? Why, fastest lap in a Friday practice session. That was what Renault and their driver Fernando Alonso duly delivered yesterday, as the Spaniard headed the two Ferraris and Lewis Hamilton's McLaren.

But even Alonso had trouble keeping a straight face as he admitted his performance had much to do with relative fuel loads and did not really mean that the 2005 and 2006 champions had found their way back ahead of the red cars.

"We were able to continue our free practice programme this afternoon without any problems," he said after an engine failure at the end of the morning's session. "We tried several new elements that we ran in the test last week in Barcelona, and everything went well and we completed our programme. But that does not mean that we have suddenly overtaken the Ferraris..."

Indeed not. Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen were focused on the usual Friday things of chassis set-up and tyre choice, and were less concerned about outright lap times. Hamilton was in the same mode, and he and Massa both explored and exceeded the limits of adhesion on more than one occasion.

"We made a great deal of progress this morning and seemed to get the car dialled in nicely to the circuit," Hamilton said. "This afternoon I unfortunately had a twitchy moment at the exit of Turn Three and ran wide into the gravel. It cut short my run with no major damage and slightly disturbed our run programme. At the end of the session, we tried out a new safety car timing system, which still needs a little more work. But today has shown we're looking quick this weekend."

Hamilton also demonstrated speed off-track. The previous day he had unequivocally indicated his support for fellow drivers who were considering possible strike action over the rising cost of their super licences, even though he is not a member of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association. Yesterday, however, he changed his mind and issued a corrective statement which said: "In the FIA press conference at Magny-Cours on Thursday I expressed my support for whatever decisions the drivers may take, on the basis that my support could be critical."

"I am not involved in any strike talks; that is not my position. I am here to race; to do my job for the team, for myself and for the fans of Formula One.

"To put my comment in the correct perspective, another driver said, 'I think it will be difficult to get all the drivers to have the same idea, but we're trying to convince the FIA to reduce the cost.'

"I then responded, 'I've always said that they have my support; and it's something I agree with as well.'

"In any case, I don't believe for one minute that the drivers will take such drastic measures. We have the British Grand Prix in a couple of weeks' time and other grands prix to follow, and I'm certainly not planning on missing any of them."

Off the track there was further action as the mandatory controversy about the British Grand Prix reared its head, right on time to scare beleaguered members of the British Racing Drivers' Club ahead of their big event in two weeks.

This time, it was the suggestion that the race could go to Donington Park in Leicester, the scene of the Grand Prix of Europe in 1993 which was won sensationally by the late Ayrton Senna.

"We are discussing the possibility of reaching an agreement with Donington to host the British Grand Prix," Bernie Ecclestone was quoted as saying. "We are trying to save the British Grand Prix and we want it to be staged at a venue which befits an event of its stature.

"I have been in negotiations for a long time and whether or not we're going to do a deal with Donington or Silverstone, I don't know. Donington have said they are going to build everything we want. Have they got the money? Only time will tell. But I think there is more chance of Donington having the money than the BRDC."

Ecclestone's dissatisfaction with the BRDC is now part of the sport's folklore, but it is difficult to envisage Donington being any more successful than Silverstone in achieving the standards that Ecclestone demands of European tracks since, besides the track itself requiring a major upgrade, there are not sufficient hotels in the region.

When the ebullient Leicester developer and circuit owner Tom Wheatcroft finally achieved his dream of hosting a grand prix at Donington, back in 1993, poor weather ensured that it was a huge success and Senna won sensationally in changing conditions after trouncing the faster Williams-Renaults of Damon Hill (now president of the BRDC) and Alain Prost. But that price was a deficit believed to be £3.5m.

French GP practice times

First session: 1 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1 min 15.30 sec; 2 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:16.002; 3 H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren 1:16.055; 4 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:16.073; 5 R Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:16.377; 6 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:16.400; 7 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:16.758; 8 S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:16.838; 9 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:16.870; 10 T Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:16.886; 11 N Piquet (Br) Renault 1:17.063; 12 D Coulthard (GB) Red Bull-Renault 1:17.234; 13 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault 1:17.269; 14 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota 1:17.394; 15 R Barrichello (Br) Honda 1:17.491; 16 S Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:17.683; 17 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota 1:17.696; 18 J Button (GB) Honda 1:17.928; 19 G Fisichella (It) Force India-Ferrari 1:18.072; 20 A Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari 1:18.673.

Second session: 1 Alonso 1min 15.778sec; 2 Massa 1:15.854; 3 Raikkonen 1:15.999; 4 Hamilton 1:16.232; 5 Vettel 1:16.298; 6 Kubica 1:16.317; 7 Kovalainen 1:16.340; 8 Heidfeld 1:16.458; 9 Piquet 1:16.543; 10 Coulthard 1:16.572; 11 Rosberg 1:16.682; 12 Trulli 1:16.743; 13 Bourdais 1:16.758; 14 Nakajima 1:17.002; 15 Glock 1:17.092; 16 Webber 1:17.106; 17 Button 1:17.244; 18 Fisichella 1:17.394; 19 Barrichello 1:17.591; 20 Sutil 1:17.868.

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn