Nelson Piquet Jr continued his form from the Hungaroring to get his Istanbul weekend off on the right foot in free practice.

The Brazilian opened the first GP2 Series meeting after the summer break with a similar display of form to that which he showed in Budapest, setting the initial pace with a time of 1min 36.753secs around the tricky Istanbul Park circuit. Piquet set his first fastest lap halfway through the half-hour session and then kept going faster, leaving his rivals with no answer to his speed.

Giorgio Pantano showed that a modicum of experience on the circuit was vital, the Italian getting closest to Piquet on his final lap, but was still two-tenths short of the top time. Another 2005 veteran, Alex Premat, was third quickest in the session, ahead of the best of the newcomers, Timo Glock, the German maintaining his impressive iSport form with fourth spot.

Another second year GP2 man, Jose Maria Lopez, was the early pacesetter in a session that saw most of the field spin as they tried to come to terms with the undulating and fast-flowing circuit, but the Argentine had retreated to an unrepresentative 16th by the time the chequered flag flew.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton, hoping to get his title fight back on track after an off weekend in Hungary, could only manage the sixth-best time, with Clivio Piccione pushing himself between the Briton and Glock, while Adam Carroll underlined the benefit of a previous visit with seventh place. Newcomers Lucas di Grassi and Javier Villa were next up, with Ernesto Viso completing the top ten.

Not everyone with prior knowledge of the track fared well, however, with Alex Negrao 14th, Gianmaria Bruni 17th, Hiroki Yoshimoto 19th and Nicolas Lapierre 20th. Local favourite Jason Tahinci also failed to benefit from an earlier World Series by Renault outing in Turkey by posting only the 24th fastest time, quicker only than Fairuz Fauzy and Vitaly Petrov.

As usual, however, the timesheets proved to be very tight, with one second covering the top seven drivers, and a total of 18 men within two seconds of Piquet's time. Despite the large number of spins, all 26 cars emerged unscathed and ready for qualifying once the Formula One sessions have been completed.


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