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Raikkonen bounces back at Valencia practice session

Latest update : 2008-08-24

Defending world champion Kimi Raikkonen nabbed the fastest time at the European Grand Prix practice session in Valencia. The Finn has not won any races since late April, and is behind Lewis Hamilton by five points.

Defending champion Kimi Raikkonen beamed with pleasure after grabbing the fastest time in Friday's practice sessions for Sunday's European Grand Prix.

The 28-year-old Finn lived up to his promise to concentrate on improving his practice and qualifying performances - and did so to put a smile on the faces of the Ferrari team.

He said: "I like driving this track. It is different to other street circuits we have had and yesterday, when I walked it, I thought it would be fun - today just confirmed that impression for me.

"There are some very quick parts and almost everywhere there is a lot of room. It is maybe similar to some of the North American circuits used in the past.

"They have done a really good job. We have got off to a good start, but it is too early to say where we are in relation to the opposition. I think overtaking will be difficult, as always.

"I hope I don't need to worry about it so I am concentrating on getting the best position for qualifying."

Raikkonen is second in the drivers championship with 57 points behind Briton Lewis Hamilton who has 62. Hamilton wound up fifth.

He said: "Considering the dustiness of the track, we made a very promising start on the set up this morning - we were able to go faster on each run without changing too much and had a good baseline for the afternoon session.

"In P2, this afternoon, our adjustments were again spot-on, but the sheer volume of traffic meant that it was difficult to confirm immediately our final set-up changes. I think we are in pretty good shape and I am looking forward to Saturday."

Raikkonen had to bounce back to clock the best time after local hero Fernando Alonso in a Renault had taken top spot ahead of Briton Jenson Button in the closing stages.

Fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen, who was sixth behind his McLaren team-mate, said: "The track was very green this morning which meant there was little point in making big changes to the car.

"But we made some in the afternoon and they seemed to pay off. I felt the car was working well by the end of the session and the balance was good."

For McLaren, the race marks the 200th Grand Prix of their partnership with Mercedes-Benz which began at the 1995 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Since then the team has won 57 Formula One races, taken 59 pole positions and won two drivers and one constructors' title.

Mercedes sport chief Norbert Haug said: "This is a good start to the weekend for us all and I must say that it is a great circuit.

"The organisers have done a first-class job and especially Bernie (Ecclestone, F1's commercial ring-master) for this maiden race here in Valencia."

Date created : 2008-08-22