McLaren lead the way in grand-prix practice

McLaren showed their rivals the way ahead of Sunday’s German Grand Prix when test driver Alexander Wurz finished fastest in the opening practice session in Hockenheim on Friday.

The British team, who are aiming to chase down championship leaders Renault this weekend, made the most of their extra third car while their front-running rivals remained in the garage to conserve their engines.

Wurz ran a total of 21 laps to set a session-best time of 1:14,277 and helped the team prepare their cars for what will be a vital race for lead driver Kimi Raikkonen’s world-championship hopes.

Raikkonen has dropped away from title race leader Fernando Alonso in recent races and needs a victory in Germany, on engine manufacturer Mercedes’s home ground, to reignite his championship fight.

And under brightening skies with temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius, the Finn—who is 26 points down on Alonso—showed his determination as he finished the fastest race driver in third behind Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the last race for McLaren at Silverstone, finished fifth, just behind fourth-placed Jenson Button of BAR-Honda, while both Renault drivers remained in the garage and chose not to set a lap.

World champion Michael Schumacher, hoping for an improved performance in front of his home fans this weekend, finished sixth, just ahead of Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello.

Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi was eighth fastest in Red Bull Racing’s third car, while Japan’s Takuma Sato, in the second BAR-Honda, and German Ralf Schumacher, in the second Toyota, completed the top 10 runners.

Nicolas Kiesa, making his debut for Jordan in their third car, was the first driver out on track but Alex Wurz, who replaced Pedro de la Rosa in the third McLaren, set the first time of the day with a lap of 1:17,376.

Christian Klien was off the circuit within three minutes of the session when he made a mistake at turn nine but he returned to the track, as did Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan, who went off at turns six and one respectively.

The session saw Zonta and Wurz continually swapping times with Zonta on top with half the session gone; then Wurz bettered it, Zonta moved back ahead again and finally Wurz claimed the top spot.—Sapa-AFP