They left it late as usual, but race drivers prevailed in an unusually busy first practice for the Turkish Grand Prix as the teams began to feel their way round the Istanbul Park circuit once again.

Squeezing in a lap in final seconds, 2005 winner Kimi Raikkonen pumped in a time four tenths faster than Michael Schumacher, who also made a late appearance on the timesheets, the German drawing first blood in his tussle with Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard, along with Renault team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, choosing to do nothing more than an installation lap.

Third place fell to Hungary winner Jenson Button, the Brit eager not to let the emotions of his first win get in the way of a strong performance this weekend. However, while Button was third and test driver Anthony Davidson, running a Toyota-like red and white livery as a result of their tie-up with Turkish fuel company Petrol Ofisi, was fifth, Honda will be concerned by the test driver's engine failure midway through the session, particularly as Button suffered a similar fate in Hungary...

Splitting the two Hondas was Alex Wurz in the Williams, the Austrian doing the leg work for Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg, who sat out the session in an attempt to spare the seemingly fragile mechanics on their cars.

Fresh from his maiden F1 podium in Hungary, Pedro de la Rosa insists he is an outside bet for victory this weekend, a fact he goes some way to proving by posting sixth fastest here, just ahead of Nick Heidfeld's BMW Sauber, who in turn was just ahead of the team's new test driver, Sebastian Vettel, the German doing an impressive job to go eighth considering his lack of F1 experience and the fact he has never visited Turkey before.

His time, just 1.6secs off the ultimate pace, was enough to edge ahead of Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso test drivers Robert Doornbos and Neel Jani, the Dutchman lucky to have emerged unscathed after several off track moments.

A limited number of laps were enough to deliver the 11th best time for Rubens Barrichello, while Giorgio Mondini was back in the MF1 Racing test role for the first time since Indianapolis, setting the 12th best time, Scott Speed separating the Swiss driver from regulars Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers in 14th and 15th.

Former race driver Franck Montagny gave Super Aguri a glimpse of what they were missing when he assumed testing duties for the team, setting the 16th fastest time, ahead of Felipe Massa, but crucially four tenths up on replacement Sakon Yamamoto in 18th and Vitantonio Liuzzi in 19th.

Along with Renault and Williams, Red Bull and Toyota did nothing more than an installation lap ahead of a full program in the afternoon.

 

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