Red Bull lose bottle amid Spa water

David Tremayne
Thursday 18 July 2013 04:46
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Score nil points to Red Bull Racing, for sending their man, Tonio Liuzzi, out on intermediate Michelin tyres in conditions that the world championship leader, Fernando Alonso, later described as "impossible".

Liuzzi got as far as the fifth corner before the tail of his Red Bull suddenly snapped round to meet the front end and send him into a journey down the barriers. The session was red-flagged as the Italian hitched a ride home and the remains of his car followed on a flatbed truck.

Some time later Christijan Albers took his Minardi round for a cautious lap. Then came Alonso, who had not run in the morning session when his arch rival, Kimi Raikkonen, had set the fastest time for McLaren-Mercedes. "No problems with the car, but the conditions were impossible - you couldn't go faster than 150 kph [93mph]," reported Alonso, who had gone out on Michelin's full wet weather tyres, which are designed for such dire circumstances.

Raikkonen said: "The car felt good straight away and we will just have to wait and see the weather tomorrow."

Nobody else even poked their noses out of their garages. "Clearly, running in the extreme conditions that we experienced this afternoon would not have been wise," said McLaren's team chief, Ron Dennis. "I'm sure this will be a weekend where the accuracy of our weather forecasting will play a significant role in the outcome of the race."

This is, after all, Spa-Francorchamps, which is notorious for having its own highly unpredictable micro-climate. The weather denied the teams the chance to choose between hard and soft tyre compounds, so they will be allowed to do this in practice this morning. And as Sauber-Petronas's technical director, Willy Rampf, observed, the lack of running time might generate some interesting performances in qualifying this afternoon. But altogether it was an unsatisfactory day, and the forecast for the rest of the weekend is for more rain.

Whether that might benefit beleaguered Ferrari and Bridgestone remains to be seen. The conventional wisdom is that the Japanese company's wet weather tyre is the same one they had 18 months ago, and that it is better than the Michelin in very wet conditions but inferior when there is less rain.

After 15 bone-dry races in this remarkable season, it is possible that this debate might finally be resolved.

Ultimately, however, it may all prove academic. Edouard Michelin is due to host a press conference this afternoon in which he is expected to say that Michelin will not bid for the contract to be sole tyre supplier to Formula One from 2007, thus opening the way for Bridgestone to enjoy a monopoly. If nothing else, after the farce at Indianapolis when safety concerns forced Michelin-shod cars into the garage before the race had begun, that should please Max Mosley, the president of motor sport's international governing body, the FIA.

BELGIUM GRAND PRIX First free practice session (Spa-Francorchamps): 1 K Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:48.206; 2 A Wurz (Aut) McLaren-Mercedes 1:48.216; 3 G Fisichella (It) Renault 1:48.619; 4 R Zonta (Br) Toyota 1:49.445; 5 M Webber (Aus) Williams-BMW 1:49.692; 6 J Button (GB) BAR-Honda 1:49.890; 7 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:50.542; 8 M Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1:50.564; 9 R Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:50.820; 10 V Liuzzi (It) Red Bull 1:50.951; 11 T Sato (Japan) BAR-Honda 1:51.003; 12 R Barrichello (Br) Ferrari 1:51.177; 13 J Villeneuve (Can) Sauber-Petronas 1:52.173; 14 F Massa (Br) Sauber-Petronas 1:52.236; 15 N Karthikeyan (Ind) Jordan-Toyota 1:53.148; 16 A Pizzonia (Br) Williams-BMW 1:53.535; 17 C Albers (Neth) Minardi-Cosworth 1:53.807; 18 N Kiesa (Den) Jordan-Toyota 1:54.437; 19 R Doornbos (Neth) Minardi-Cosworth 1:54.973; 20 T Monteiro (Por) Jordan-Toyota 1:55.174; 21 E Toccacelo (It) Minardi-Cosworth 2:02.502; 22 D Coulthard (GB) Red Bull; 23 C Klien (Aut) Red Bull; 24 F Alonso (Sp) Renault; 25 J Pablo Montoya (Colombia) McLaren-Mercedes.

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