F1: Fernando takes initiative

Fernando Alonso dominated both practices in Indianapolis last night with the fastest laps in each of the sessions for tomorrow's United States Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso dominated both practices in Indianapolis last night with the fastest laps in each of the sessions for tomorrow's United States Grand Prix.

The double world champion (pictured, right) outpaced McLaren team-mate and world championship leader Lewis Hamilton by 0.153 seconds in the second session as the British rookie made his first visit to the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ferrari looked to have solved their recent problems with Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen clocking the third and fourth fastest laps of the session respectively.

After winning three of the first four races of the 2007 season, Ferrari have seen the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso build a 28-point lead over them in the constructors' championship after six races, with Massa getting disqualified last week in Canada for ignoring a pit-lane red light.

There was another brush with the stewards during yesterday's first practice when the Brazilian was one of three drivers fined for exceeding the pit lane speed limit.

The Ferrari pair of Massa and Kimi Raikkonen were also off the pace set by Alonso, running seventh and fifth fastest respectively.

But Massa bounced back in style, throwing down the gauntlet to McLaren with an early lap of one minute, 12.454 seconds.

That stayed as the quickest lap until only 10 minutes remained of the 90-minute session, with Hamilton turning in a storming lap, his 25th of the afternoon, to go 0.145 seconds faster than the Brazilian.

That was quickly eclipsed by Alonso, who on his next lap took another 0.153 off the quickest time.

Raikkonen clocked 1min 12.587secs for fourth fastest, with Nick Heidfeld, second quickest in the earlier session, fifth (1:13.026) and Red Bull's David Coulthard turning in a morale-boosting sixth fastest 1:13.042. Coulthard's team-mate Mark Webber's session ended prematurely when he came to a halt on the track with 23 minutes of the allotted 90 remaining.

Honda's Jenson Button was 10th quickest in 1:13.202.

During the first session, Fernando Alonso had set the fastest time of 1:11.925 as Heidfeld relegated Hamilton to third quickest. Sebastian Vettel, the 19-year-old BMW Sauber test driver who will make his Grand Prix debut on Sunday, as a replacement for Robert Kubica, was fourth fastest.

Williams Nico Rosberg and Renault's Heikki Kovalainen were the drivers joining Massa in picking up fines for their pit-lane transgressions.

During the second session, Hamilton exceeded the pit-lane practice session speed limit and picked up a fine of 200 euros.

Dave Richards always believed Lewis Hamilton would be a superstar after watching him as an eight-year-old in karting.

Richards knows Hamilton and his family well as a young Lewis was in the same team at the time - now 14 years ago - as his own son Jamie, who is two years older.

Appreciating Hamilton's talent, Jamie Richards could be in the money later this year should the 22-year-old win the Formula One world title after betting on him to do so at the start of the season.

Hamilton is certainly in pole position as he leads McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso by eight points going into tomorrow's seventh round of the championship, the United States Grand Prix.

Richards, chairman of Prodrive, which next season will be the 12th team on the grid, said: "The guy was always going to be a sensation.

"Lewis and Jamie were in the same team, although in different race categories. But we always used to cheer on Lewis.

"What he has achieved since then has surpassed all our expectations, but nonetheless, we always knew he was phenomenal."


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