Fernando nips budding Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, San Marino GP 2006

Fernando Alonso, San Marino GP 2006 

 © The Cahier Archive

Hope springs eternal in Italy when Ferraris are running around race tracks but even the team's famous magic at Imola was unable to stop Fernando Alonso setting the fastest time on Friday with a blistering lap of 1m25.043s in the final seconds of the second practice session. Michael Schumacher tried to go faster in his Ferrari but failed and had to be content with a time that was three-tenths slower than the flying Renault.

The important thing however was not that but rather that no-one was quite sure whether we have seen the true pace of all the cars. The track was dusty all day and most of the engineers believe that the times will start to come down when there is more rubber down on the road. And that could mean a very different order on Saturday.

The pace was much slower than expected with last year's pole being more than five seconds faster than the best Friday times, despite the fact that a couple of troublesome kerbs have also been taken away which should have meant faster laps.

The level of grip was such that some teams complained that the tyres were barely getting used. The story in Imola therefore is likely to be a similar story to the earlier races of the year with tyres being the key factor in performance. Good preparation is all important and thus the role of the test drivers is particularly vital this year and so it was no surprise to see Robert Kubica and Anthony Davidson third and fourth in the times on Friday afternoon ahead of Felipe Massa, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli and Williams's test driver Alexander Wurz.

Behind the Austrian were Juan-Pablo Montoya, Nick Heidfeld, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen, an indication that we have yet to see the best from some of the bigger teams.

Saturday may give us a very different story but there are not many people willing to bet against Alonso at the moment.