Raikkonen on top in Spain
Ferraris dominate Friday practice
World champion Kimi Raikkonen cemented his position at the head of the betting for the Spanish Grand Prix by going fastest in both practice sessions at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya on Friday.
The Ferraris dominated the opening period with team-mate Felipe Massa a narrow second, but Raikkonen excelled in the afternoon while the Brazilian could only manage fifth position.
"We did the work we needed to do and had no problems," said Raikkonen. "As usual on Friday, it is hard to judge where we are up against our rivals and I think we can expect a very close fight."
Renault stepped up after lunch with Nelson Piquet only marginally down on Raikkonen and ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso in third, with the Williams of Kazuki Nakajima just ahead of Massa.
Nevertheless, despite Renault appearing to show improved pace than of late, Alonso said he was having difficulty setting up his car on a track which offered less grip than it did during last week's group test.
"It was a difficult day for everybody," the Spaniard said. "I'm sure everybody is having problems with the balance and grip of the car and it's the same for us ... we still need to work tonight because we were not extremely happy with the car."
Lewis Hamilton had been best of the rest in the morning but slumped to 11th later on, with McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen suffering a gearbox oil pump problem in the first session, and an accelerator pedal steering issue in the second.
"We struggled with the balance of the car throughout both sessions today," Hamilton lamented. "There was too much oversteer and we tried a lot of different things to improve but didn't make the progress we wanted."
Hamilton also admitted that, like Alonso, he was finding it difficult to set up his car and added his belief that Ferrari will be difficult to beat this weekend.
He added: "I wouldn't say I'm more optimistic, but I wouldn't say I'm worried. I think we just have to work hard, put our heads down, and try to find the right balance.
"But it's very, very hard when you have two practice sessions when you maybe get 20 laps and you have to fight the correct balance of the car.
"Especially when the wind is picking up and changing. It makes it very hard. I'm still pushing very, very hard for victory, but Ferrari will be very, very hard to beat.
"And the other teams are looking very quick as well. Obviously tomorrow will be another day. We still have a very strong package and we are going to be competing at the front with everyone else."
Honda support for Super Aguri
David Coulthard maintained eighth throughout the day while Jenson Button was 15th for Honda, and unsurprisingly the Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson were again at the rear, although they are fortunate to be on track at all.
Honda Japan have stepped in to support team owner Aguri Suzuki for one race only to spare the team the embarrassment of pulling out midway through the grand prix.
"It's been a really difficult time, from the end of last year through to the start of this year," former Honda test driver Davidson said of the cash-strapped team's struggle to keep going.
"There are a lot of drivers up and down the grid, with much more experience than myself, who would have crumbled by this point."
Friday practice, session one:
01 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:20.649 17 laps
02 F. Massa Ferrari 1:20.699 9 laps
03 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:21.192 20 laps
04 R. Kubica BMW 1:21.568 20 laps
05 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:21.758 10 laps
06 F. Alonso Renault 1:21.933 18 laps
07 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:21.936 21 laps
08 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:22.118 20 laps
09 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:22.278 24 laps
10 J. Button Honda 1:22.632 16 laps
11 T. Glock Toyota 1:23.002 21 laps
12 N. Rosberg Williams 1:23.003 25 laps
13 M. Webber Red Bull 1:23.015 14 laps
14 J. Trulli Toyota 1:23.141 15 laps
15 K. Nakajima Williams 1:23.153 24 laps
16 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:23.156 22 laps
17 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:23.196 20 laps
18 R. Barrichello Honda 1:23.353 14 laps
19 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:23.952 15 laps
20 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:24.082 15 laps
21 T. Sato Super Aguri 1:24.278 14 laps
22 A. Davidson Super Aguri 1:25.068 10 laps
01 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:21.935 38 laps
02 N. Piquet jr. Renault 1:22.019 38 laps
03 F. Alonso Renault 1:22.032 26 laps
04 K. Nakajima Williams 1:22.172 35 laps
05 F. Massa Ferrari 1:22.229 32 laps
06 M. Webber Red Bull 1:22.238 36 laps
07 N. Rosberg Williams 1:22.266 33 laps
08 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:22.289 30 laps
09 G. Fisichella Force India F1 1:22.383 38 laps
10 A. Sutil Force India F1 1:22.548 38 laps
11 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:22.685 33 laps
12 R. Kubica BMW 1:22.788 38 laps
13 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:23.130 40 laps
14 J. Trulli Toyota 1:23.224 34 laps
15 J. Button Honda 1:23.263 34 laps
16 H. Kovalainen McLaren 1:23.264 8 laps
17 R. Barrichello Honda 1:23.415 31 laps
18 S. Vettel Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:23.661 35 laps
19 S. Bourdais Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:23.684 37 laps
20 T. Glock Toyota 1:23.883 40 laps
21 T. Sato Super Aguri 1:25.110 30 laps
22 A. Davidson Super Aguri 1:25.163 31 laps