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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-11-2008, 10:11 PM Thread Starter
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Into the unknown - the untried challenge of Valencia

12 Aug 2008
Into the unknown - the untried challenge of Valencia
With surprises galore, the 2008 season has been something of a rollercoaster ride to date, so with a three-week summer break now upon us, you’d think most of the Formula One teams would be glad of the respite. But with the untried challenge of Valencia’s new street circuit awaiting them later this month, the majority are busier than ever, honing their cars in readiness for the Spanish city’s inaugural European Grand Prix.

Williams, now in their fourth decade of racing, are among the best practised in the art of coping with new venues and, like many of their rivals, have been busy preparing for Valencia since the start of the season.

“We started doing some initial mapping of the circuit several months ago, from architect plans and FIA information,” explained chief operations engineer Rod Nelson in an official Williams podcast. “We created a rough map of the circuit and then we ran our simulation around it to see things like aero levels and look at the potential for high brake wear or what kind of demands the circuit will put on the tyres.

“So in the case of aero levels we can make new parts to suit that particular circuit. And then as you come nearer the time you can get more information from the organisers and the FIA and you just build up the picture and refine the simulation.”

Williams’ laser scanning facilities mean they have also been able to scan the circuit so that their drivers can practise some ‘virtual laps’ on the team’s simulator. This allows them to get used to the racing lines and even to start looking at set-ups, though, of course, there is no substitute for actually being there. “Nothing beats walking around the circuit with the drivers, chatting about problems, looking at the kerbs, the amount of run-off area, how close you are to the wall,” added Nelson.

Williams driver Nico Rosberg is also impatient to get some first-hand experience of the track, but until first practice on Friday week the German will have to be content with factory-based preparations. He already has a strategy in mind, using footage from the recent GT races held at the circuit.

“I’m going to watch the onboard from some of the GT racing to get a good idea of the track,” explained Rosberg in the podcast. “But then it’s really taking a guess on the set-up, comparing with other street circuits, like Monaco, and from then we’ll just have to take it step by step through the weekend.

“On a street circuit like that, the problem is that there is no grip at the beginning. On a normal track you’d learn it in like 15 laps or 10 even. But on a street circuit it’s going to take you more than that - maybe 20 laps - to get the hang of it. It’s going to be very important to keep the car on the track because if you crash you’ll lose a lot of time.

Williams enjoyed a strong start to their 2008 campaign, with Rosberg scoring his first (and so far only) Formula One podium in Australia. Since then their form has faded away, with just one point from the last five rounds, but it’s a trend the level playing field of a new circuit could help reverse.

“For all the teams, everyone is starting at zero more or less, with the track, the drivers, the set-up and everything,” added Rosberg. “So it’s going to be a big challenge for everybody to get the best out of it as quickly as possible. It is going to be a really interesting race.”

The European Grand Prix will take place on August 22-24.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-17-2008, 07:58 AM Thread Starter
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More Monza than Monaco - why Valencia's no ordinary street circuit

15 Aug 2008
More Monza than Monaco - why Valencia's no ordinary street circuit
Mention the term ‘street circuit’ and the words that normally spring to mind include ‘tight’, ‘twisty’, ‘slow’, and ‘minimal overtaking’. However, the all-new Valencia Street Circuit, venue for next weekend’s European Grand Prix, is set to provide a very different experience.

Winding around the Spanish port’s Juan Carlos I Marina, home to the recent 32nd America’s Cup yacht race, the Valencia track is fast, sweeping and wide, and offers several potential opportunities for passing. Predictions suggest it will be the eighth-fastest race on the calendar, making it more like Monza than Monaco.

"When you think about temporary street races in Formula One, you mainly think about Monaco,” says Mercedes’ Norbert Haug. “However, Valencia does not have very much in common with this classic race; just that both cities are located on the Mediterranean coast and that both circuits lead along the harbour front.”

Official simulations have estimated a top speed of 320 km/h at the end of Valencia’s main straight and an estimated lap time around the 1m 37s bracket. With an expected average speed of 225 km/h, the circuit should be on a par with a venue such as Bahrain (average speed 205 km/h) and far quicker than Monte Carlo.

“This is not typical for a street race; it is more like a version of Silverstone or Monza but located in a city," adds Haug. “While the Monte Carlo race is the slowest of the year with an average speed of about 156 km/h for the fastest lap, and is also the shortest with a race distance of almost 254 kilometres, we face a race distance of 310 kilometres in Valencia and a track on which the cars will reach 300 km/h or more five times per lap.”

The new venue is likely to prove as tough on brakes as Canada’s Montreal street circuit, with three stops down to around 80 km/h. Engines will also get a demanding workout, with the longest full-throttle section along the harbour-side back straight lasting a full 13 seconds.

"It looks pretty fast, to be honest,” says McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen. “You get used to street circuits being quite slow, with lots of slow- to medium-speed corners and very short straights, but this is almost the opposite. There are a lot of fast kinks and esses, a couple of decent straights and lots of high-speed stuff.”

McLaren’s simulations suggest they will employ downforce levels similar to those used at Hockenheim in Germany. However, there will be less margin for driver error thanks to the combination of relatively high speeds and relatively few run-off areas.

“Anybody who’s studied any onboard footage of the circuit will be mindful of the proximity of the concrete barriers in certain areas,” says McLaren’s Formula One CEO, Martin Whitmarsh. “Clearly, we’ll be packing plenty of spares, but hoping we won’t need to use them!"

Opening practice for the European Grand Prix takes place on Friday, August 22.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-20-2008, 01:57 AM Thread Starter
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European Grand Prix - preview quotes pt.1

European Grand Prix - preview quotes
Formula One racing is about to re-group in Spain after its three-week summer break to visit the first all-new venue on the 2008 calendar - the impressive street circuit in the port city of Valencia. Organisers have created a unique and demanding 25-corner track that winds around the Juan Carlos I Marina. However, unlike traditional street circuits, whose tight and twisting configurations place a premium on qualifying at the front, Valencia is fast, sweeping and wide, offering plenty of potential for passing - and excitement...

Nico Rosberg, Williams
"I’ve had a nice, but not particularly, relaxing couple of weeks in the Alps during the break. I’ve spent some time with family and friends but mostly I’ve been training. Valencia is a Grand Prix I’ve been looking forward to as it’s not only a new circuit, but a new street circuit. From what I’ve seen and read about it, I think it’ll be a great track to race on so I can’t wait for the weekend to start. The atmosphere will no doubt be fantastic as well because the Spanish have a real passion for Formula One. Valencia should be a track that suits our car, so I’m hoping we’ll have a good race and take something positive away from Spain."

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
"I’m looking forward to a good race in Valencia. The new track looks great, and should be really interesting to race on. As at Monaco and Montreal, our car goes well at these kinds of tracks, so I’m hoping we’ll put in a good performance there. It shouldn’t take too long for the drivers to get used to the circuit, and for the first time the rest of the grid will be learning it with me! I’ve had a nice two week break, during which I returned home to Japan to catch up with family and friends, but now I’m looking forward to the last few rounds of the season."

Sam Michael, Williams technical director
"Valencia’s street circuit is a new addition to the calendar. It looks like a great track with some interesting sections for drivers and engineers alike. With 25 corners around the lap, it will be busy work for the drivers to maintain concentration and put together a perfect lap, particularly in qualifying. Because the circuit’s a new entity for the drivers, and because it will be green when they first go out of the garage, having a trouble-free run on Friday will be essential for a successful race weekend. The cars will run a lower than normal rear wing drag level in Valencia due to the five long straight sections, and the long, sweeping corners will all be taken at full throttle. Bridgestone will bring the soft and super-soft tyres, both suited to street circuits. Teams will, most likely, opt for a one or two stop strategy on the basis that overtaking on a twisty street circuit is always fairly restricted. We will, however, review strategy on Friday night after we have some more accurate data regarding tyre degradation and fuel consumption."

Nelson Piquet, Renault
“This season I have already learned several new circuits, but the difference this time is that all the drivers will be in the same position and having to learn the circuit. I think that from the point of view of the championship it's interesting to visit new tracks: it's an extra challenge for the drivers as well as the teams. I have worked hard with the team to approach this race in the best shape possible and I will try to get on the pace quickly and maximise every lap in practice. It's a street circuit so it will be quite tricky, but also very interesting. It's never easy to learn a new circuit, but, as I have said, this time all the teams and drivers will be in the same position. It will be interesting to see who can get comfortable fastest. I would like to have another solid weekend, starting off with a good day of practice on Friday, qualifying in the top 10 and showing good race pace to hopefully finish in the points. That's how I will approach this race. After the summer break, I am well rested and motivated to have a great end to the season.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault
“I'm very happy to be driving at home for a second time: it's always a special feeling to race in front of my countrymen and I'm really looking forward to it. In Barcelona we were having a strong race when I had to retire, but I hope this time I can get a good result as the circuit will be new for all the drivers. It will be interesting for me and also for the team, who have been working hard in preparation for this race for the last couple of months. As a new circuit, I think it gives the drivers a chance to show what they can do, but I am not under any illusions as I expect all the drivers to be quick. We must do our best to find our reference points quicker than the others in order to spring a surprise.”

Pat Symonds, Renault’s director of engineering
“We look forward to every race and I think we like the challenge of a new circuit. We enjoy the ambiance of visiting new places and the race team have had a short break so they will head there raring to go. It certainly looks like a fabulous venue. The teams are all well used to going to new circuits so I think the playing field is pretty level anyway. However, I would say that going to a new track is much more a test of a team's ability to adapt to new circumstances and manage change, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy the challenge of a new circuit.”

Timo Glock, Toyota
“I'm still smiling after Hungary. That was an incredible result and a fantastic feeling; I hope it will be the first of many podiums in Formula One. The important thing was that we showed just how competitive we are at the moment and moved further ahead in fourth place in the constructors' championship. There is a great atmosphere in the team and we are all working hard together to move forward, which is why it was so satisfying to get on the podium in Hungary. But Valencia is a new race and we must start again. I did plenty of street races when I was racing in Champ Cars and in that season almost all the tracks were new to me so I have learnt to adapt quickly. It looks like an interesting circuit and it's quite long so it should be a good show. We will have plenty of work to do on Friday to adjust the car to the track but we are in good form at the moment so I am optimistic for this weekend.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
"The track looks amazing and the location is fantastic so I am really looking forward to this Grand Prix. The team has worked hard to prepare for this race because it is a new track for all of us but from a driver's point of view the important thing is to drive it for the first time and then you can start to understand more about the circuit. I enjoy going to new venues because they are a new challenge and there is always something to discover; every race is unique and I like that. Even though this is a new track for us, I know Valencia pretty well from all the testing we have done at the other circuit there. It is a lively city and there always seems to be something going on so it should be a fun weekend. I am expecting a competitive weekend as well because at the moment we are looking quite strong. Scoring more points is our target and if we challenge for the podium again, that would be great."

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota’s senior general manager chassis
"We are well prepared for Valencia. Of course, we started our preparations for this new track by looking at the FIA information and that allowed us to put forward some speed profiles in order to estimate downforce and braking requirements, for example. We also sent staff to look at the inaugural race meeting there at the end of July and that gave us additional data with regards to speed profiles, driving lines and track surface. We expect the track to be in the mid range of downforce and quite severe on brakes. At the beginning we anticipate grip will be quite low but that should improve throughout the weekend. In terms of performance, we clearly want to build on the competitiveness shown in Hungary. We are genuinely challenging to be the third quickest car based on the last few races. Valencia will also show how well teams can react to new conditions so it will be an interesting weekend and we have every reason to be feeling very positive."

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
"I'm always pleased when a new race track turns up in the calendar, and I'm particularly keen to experience Valencia. It will be an authentic street circuit in the sense that it runs through the town centre, unlike the Melbourne or Montreal tracks. In terms of its charms and challenges, the Valencia race will probably come closest to the Monaco Grand Prix. I really like Valencia, which I've visited many times, of course. We do a lot of testing on the permanent race track in Cheste and we've rolled out our new Formula One car in Valencia on several occasions. The first few metres in a brand-new car are always a very special experience.

"Early this year I spent a few days in Valencia with my family between the rollout and the next test. We had a great time, went to the beach, and in town there's a dried-out riverbed that has nature parks and playgrounds. That was very nice, especially for the children. Valencia is also a great place for shopping and eating out, needless to say, and I love the contrast between its historic and futuristic architecture. I'm looking forward to the weekend."

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
"I am very much looking forward to Valencia as I am a big fan of street circuits in general. They are very demanding as they are often bumpy and the street surface changes. When you make a mistake you easily run into barriers. Anyway, Valencia will not be a complete street circuit. There will be lots of run-off areas for safety reasons. The FIA puts a lot of effort into safety, which is good.

"On a street circuit it is of major importance to have a good basic set-up which is easy to drive. The lap time improvement has to be gained step by step, you cannot drive in too wild a style. Also, in terms of the racing line you have to approach this gradually. It is very important to walk the track before driving it the first time to get a feeling for the surface and the layout."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director
“We are very much looking forward to the race and the city, particularly as BMW has some close associations with Valencia. The Formula BMW Racing Centre there serves as the training site for our up-and-coming young talent in the Formula BMW series around the world. Valencia is by tradition the venue for rolling out our new F1 car, and beyond that city races always make for a unique atmosphere. We await the new circuit with keen anticipation."

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber technical director
"Valencia is a new venue in the calendar and as such poses a particular challenge, not least because it's a street circuit. Not that it's a slow one - the drivers will be exceeding the 300 km/h mark on the fastest section. With the help of our simulation programs we are in a position to reliably calculate the required downforce levels in advance as well as brake wear and gear ratios. That means we will start out with a good basic set-up. If you compare Valencia with Monaco, you're talking about two street circuits but with very distinctive characters and very different challenges for the cars. In Valencia we will be racing with a lot of downforce, but not with the maximum that Monaco demands."

Jenson Button, Honda
"My first thoughts are that it's a circuit that we haven't raced at before and it's got barriers all around it! I think the whole of Formula One is very excited about going to Valencia. It's a beautiful city and it will be great to be racing around the streets there. We have a simulator at our UK base, as do most teams, and spending a lot of time on that has been vital in terms of learning the circuit. With a simulator, you're not getting the complete feeling of the car but you are gaining understanding of the distances and the braking points, so it's very useful. We have some very fast circuits like Monza, Spa and Silverstone on the calendar and then the slower circuits like Monaco and Hungary, and we're expecting Valencia to be somewhere in the middle. It's also got the added excitement of being surrounded by barriers which really focuses your mind and demands that you give full concentration around every single lap."

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
"The challenge of learning a new circuit is always exciting, particularly when it is an unusual venue such as the new street circuit in Valencia. Despite preparing as much as we can in advance of the race, our track walk with the engineers on Thursday and the practice sessions on Friday will be absolutely key to learning the track and assessing the grip levels. A new track always opens up the field and gives an opportunity for the driver to make an impact as our feedback will be very important in achieving the correct set-up. We have prepared well and I am looking forward to the weekend and the potential to score some points. We can expect the race weekend to be very hot which will add to the physical challenge for the drivers, car and team. I'm a big fan of Valencia as a city; it's a beautiful location, and hopefully the race will bring a lot of new fans to Formula One."

Ross Brawn, Honda team principal
"Valencia is often thought of as a temporary race venue, however it is actually a permanent street circuit which is quite fast and flowing; it's not like the type of street circuit that we have been used to racing around in Monaco. There has been some racing around the track already with sportscars and Spanish F3, so we have been gathering information from those races to see what we can learn in advance of the race weekend.

“Valencia is going to be a medium to low-downforce track with a couple of quick corners which will present a very challenging circuit in an exciting environment. One of the key aspects is that it is going to be very windy. The America's Cup is held in Valencia for this very reason, however, such conditions could make achieving a good balance on the cars quite tricky. The Valencia weekend is going to be a fascinating engineering challenge for the team and we are all looking forward to it."
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-20-2008, 01:57 AM Thread Starter
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European Grand Prix - preview quotes pt. 2

Alex Wurz, Honda test driver
"I remember the first Formula One test that I did in Valencia in 2000. Back then it was the tiniest town and it has grown like mad to become a very cool city. There are good places to go out and it's very fast moving. The city is really into sport, with football and the America's Cup, and they will put on a good show for Formula One. I think Valencia will very quickly establish itself as one of our favourite Grands Prix.

"Being a street track, it will have that extra bit of flair and it will be a real buzz for the drivers to learn a new track. It will be dusty to start with, so they will need to increase their speed steadily because the barriers will be very unforgiving. I really like street circuits and it would be cool to be racing this weekend!"

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
"It looks pretty fast, to be honest. You get used to street circuits being quite slow, with lots of slow- to medium-speed corners and very short straights, but this is almost the opposite. There are a lot of fast kinks and esses, a couple of decent straights and lots of high-speed stuff. It’s too early to say yet whether there will be opportunities to overtake around here, but there are a couple of hairpins where it might be possible."

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
"We launched the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team in (Valencia) at the start of 2007, and I’ve tested at the Ricardo Tormo circuit so the city isn’t unfamiliar to me. Anyway, going to a new circuit doesn’t really change my preparations: everybody’s in the same situation so I don’t treat things very differently. Of course, we’ve done some preparation back at the McLaren Technology Centre ahead of this race, but our main focus will still be the three free practice sessions ahead of qualifying. I’ll be working closely with my engineers to make sure we start the weekend with a good baseline and work hard to strengthen it as we go through the weekend. I enjoy visiting new racetracks and I’m looking forward to getting into the cockpit on Friday morning. It looks like being an amazing track."

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Formula One CEO
"In terms of car set-up, we need to remember that, like Monaco, the track will be both green and dusty on the opening day of practice. That sometimes tempts you into playing with set-up more than you would like, so you need to resist that temptation and let the track come to the car. Our simulations suggest we’ll employ a downforce level similar to that of Hockenheim, but the individual demands of the track may push that window up or down. Finally, anybody who’s studied any onboard footage of the circuit will be mindful of the proximity of the concrete barriers in certain areas - clearly, we’ll be packing plenty of spares, but hoping we won’t need to use them!

"The most important thing is to be thorough, methodical and iterative. Although we arrive at a new racetrack having undertaken a huge amount of research and armed with an enormous amount of data, the reality is that it’s really only the starting point for our engineering team. We begin Friday practice the way we would at any other circuit, but in this instance, we need to pay particular attention both to driver feedback and the data generated from the car. The important thing is not to react too hastily - it’s vital that you don’t end up going down the wrong path, because you only have a limited amount of time to tune the set-up before qualifying."

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"When you think about temporary street races in Formula One, you mainly think about Monaco. However, Valencia does not have very much in common with this classic race; just that both cities are located on the Mediterranean coast and that both circuits lead along the harbour front. While the Monte Carlo race is the slowest of the year with an average speed of about 156 km/h for the fastest lap, and is also the shortest with a race distance of almost 254 kilometres, we face a race distance of 310 kilometres in Valencia and a track on which the cars will reach 300 km/h or more five times per lap. Three times per lap the drivers also have to brake to about 80 km/h which will be as extremely demanding for the brakes as the Montreal circuit. The longest full throttle section will be along the harbour where the drivers will drive at full throttle for 13 seconds. The front straight is 185 metres long and the shortest of all Formula One circuits this year. We calculated an average speed per lap of 225 km/h which will be the eighth fastest of all Grand Prix tracks. This is not typical for a street race; it is more like a version of Silverstone or Monza but located in a city.

"Our technicians at Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines in Brixworth and Stuttgart work out the circuit simulation data together with our partner McLaren Racing and use them for the engine dyno simulation. The work on the dyno is based on calculated gear ratios, revs and gear changes. According to that we find the optimum engine response and we also optimise the calibration accordingly to match the demands of the Valencia circuit as well as requirements of our drivers. This preparation is particularly important for a new circuit, for which we don’t have data from testing or races - in the end, it can be crucial to tackle qualifying and race in the best possible shape."

More to follow.
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Friday analysis - Ferrari lead Valencia learning curve

22 Aug 2008
Friday analysis - Ferrari lead Valencia learning curve
The first day of running on Valencia’s new track was a matter of letting conditions improve as more rubber went down, tuning the set-ups, and avoiding the offline dust as everyone developed baselines to compare against their simulations. At the end of it all, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen led the way, but only by a whisker from Renault’s Fernando Alonso and Honda’s Jenson Button. We take a team-by-team look at progress…

Ferrari
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 41.317s, P7/1m 39.477s, P1
Felipe Massa, 1m 40.654s, P2/1m 39.678s, P4
Both drivers loved the track, and said they were completely happy with what they achieved in terms of set-up and balance as a baseline for Saturday.

Renault
Fernando Alonso, 1m 41.385s, P9/1m 39.497s, P2
Nelson Piquet, 1m 42.107s, P15/1m 40.439s, P9
On the face of it, not a bad day for Renault, with Alonso second and Piquet ninth in the second session. They had no significant problems, but the duff note for Alonso was being reprimanded and fined €10,000 for crossing the white line on the entrance to the pits during the afternoon session.

Honda
Jenson Button, 1m 42.460s, P17/1m 39.546s, P3
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 41.830s, P11/1m 41.377s, P20
Button had his best start to a Grand Prix weekend this year with third fastest time in the afternoon, when he reported that major set-up changes had made his Honda really good to drive. Barrichello had a better morning, but went backwards on set-up and found his car much worse later on.

McLaren
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 40.822s, P3/1m 39.712s, P5
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 41.163s, P5/1m 39.954s, P6
Hamilton was very happy with the baseline McLaren established very quickly in the morning, but said that heavy traffic on his afternoon runs prevented him from confirming it fully. Kovalainen reported similar sentiments after starting with a great front end on his MP4-23 and gradually dialling in the rear. Both drivers, like their Ferrari rivals, are feeling very confident.

Toyota
Timo Glock, 1m 42.036s, P14/1m 39.967s, P7
Jarno Trulli, 1m 41.930s, P12/1m 40.877s, P15
Toyota got off to a great start, courtesy of Glock in the morning, and the young German set the seventh fastest time in the afternoon. He relied on his Champ Car experience of fast street courses and said he had a productive day. In contrast, Trulli struggled to get his TF108 well balanced and was much less happy with the consistency of his car.

BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica, 1m 41.281s, P6/1m 40.149s, P8
Nick Heidfeld, 1m 42.453s, P16/1m 41.084s, P18
As usual, BMW Sauber focused on tyre evaluation and set-up work rather than lap times. Kubica was relatively happy, but Heidfeld had little explanation for his slow lap times.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella, 1m 43.075s, P18/1m 40.500s, P10
Adrian Sutil, 1m 41.951s, P13/1m 40.999s, P17
Both Force Indias were running their seamless-shift transmissions again, and they will be retained for the whole weekend this time. Fisichella had a small brake problem which was quickly sorted, otherwise both drivers completed their programmes without interruption.

Red Bull
Mark Webber, 1m 43.524s, P20/1m 40.585s, P11
David Coulthard, 1m 43.312s, P19/1m 40.696s, P13
Webber had what he described as a ‘testing’ morning, but got going better in the afternoon. He was lucky to avoid being clobbered at one stage by a spinning Nico Rosberg in Turn 25, and wound up 11th. Coulthard likewise improved in that session.

Williams
Nico Rosberg, 1m 41.706s, P10/1m 40.607s, P12
Kazuki Nakajima, 1m 41.329s, P8/1m 40.742s, P14
Rosberg nearly picked up Webber after losing control braking into Turn 25 in the afternoon, but had an otherwise undramatic day. Both he and Nakajima completed their planned programmes with any significant problems.

Toro Rosso
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 40.496s, P1/40.982s, P16
Sebastien Bourdais, 1m 41.099s, P4/1m 41.246s, P19
Vettel was very happy with his fastest time in the morning, but predictably lost ground in the afternoon. Bourdais had traction problems and struggled with rear-end stability under braking.
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