September 9, 2005

McLaren’s Raikkonen on top in first Spa practice

By Alan Baldwin

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) - McLaren's Kimi
Raikkonen prepared to take the fight to Formula One leader
Fernando Alonso on Friday with the fastest time in opening
Belgian Grand Prix practice.

Spaniard Alonso will become Formula One's youngest champion
at Spa on Sunday if he scores four points more than Raikkonen
but the Finn has vowed to do what he can to keep the
championship alive.

While Alonso's Renault remained in the garage throughout
the hour-long session to limit mileage on an engine that has
already gone through a full race, Raikkonen lapped in one
minute 48.206 seconds.

McLaren's Austrian test driver Alexander Wurz reinforced
the Mercedes-powered team's status as race favourites with the
second fastest lap, a mere 0.010 slower.

Alonso, winner of six races this year, has a 27-point lead
over Raikkonen, who won at Spa in 2004.

Renault, who lead McLaren by eight points in the
constructors' championship with four races remaining, had
Italian Giancarlo Fisichella in third place ahead of Toyota's
Brazilian test driver Ricardo Zonta.

McLaren have won the last three races, with Colombian Juan
Pablo Montoya triumphant in Italy last weekend.

Montoya did not complete a timed lap on an overcast morning
at Spa with the track drying after heavy showers.

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, winner six times at a
favorite circuit where last year he won his seventh
championship, was eighth on the timesheets with Brazilian team
mate Rubens Barrichello 12th.