This year's European Grand Prix weekend started out much the same like last year, with Kimi Raikkonen ahead.
Now the Finnish McLaren driver hopes it won't end like last year when he claimed pole position only to retire when his engine blew up.
Raikkonen posted the fastest time Friday in the opening practice for Sunday's race, clocking 1 minute, 29.355 seconds in the afternoon session. That beat the time of 1:29.447 that Anthony Davidson, the test driver for BAR-Honda, did in the morning session.
Raikkonen's time was actually faster than his pole position last year, 1:31.523 and the best lap in the race, 1:32.621.
"A good start to the weekend but there is still a long time to go," Raikkonen said.
His teammate David Coulthard also had a good day with a fourth in the second session.
"Obviously it doesn't look too bad for us today," Coulthard said.
Michael Schumacher, who had his five-race winning streak snapped at the last GP in Monaco, was second and ninth respectively as his Ferrari team uses the practice for experimenting with settings rather than looking for speed.
Schumacher had a problem with the hydraulic system and completed only nine laps.
"My day was slightly handicapped by a hydraulic problem and we now have to investigate to see what caused it," Schumacher said.
The team was saddened when it learned of the death of Fiat chairman Umberato Agnelli. Fiat owns the Ferrari group.
"I have so many memories of Mr. Agnello who always supported us and with whom I have spent so many happy times," Schuamcher said.
Schumacher did 1:29.631 in the opening run behind Davidson then 1:30.227 in the second run with BAR-Honda's Jenson Button, 1:29.618, and Williams-BMW's Ralf Schumacher, 1:29.677, second and third, respectively.
Button has been making the most consistent runs at Michael Schumacher this season, taking two seconds and two thirds in the last five races, but he was just 10th in the first session.
"We struggled this morning and were expecting the grip level to improve in the afternoon but it didn't," Button said. "Anthony has done some good work on longer runs but this is something we need to improve on."
Last year, Raikkonen's McLaren started from pole position and led for more than 20 laps before his engine blew up, handing Ralf Schumacher the victory.
This year, Raikkonen has failed to finish four of the six races and limped to eighth and 11th places in the other two, one time starting from the back of the pack.
Last year he was in contention for the overall title until the final race of the season before losing to Michael Schumacher.
Michael Schumacher won his sixth title then and seemed to be comfortably on his way to another until he was hit by Juan Pablo Montoya at Monaco while both were behind the safety car.
Renault's Jarno Trulli, who won in Monaco, was 15th and fifth in the two practices Friday.
"A standard opening day. Our running was designed to help us choose tires and begin the car set-up program," Trulli said.
Schumacher limped out of the Monaco race after 43 laps with his front left wheel dangling. The last time he crashed out of a race was at the Brazilian Grand Prix in April 2003.
Schumacher has had mixed fortunes at Nurburg, a circuit that has hosted the European Grand Prix since 1999 and the Luxembourg GP in 1996 and 1997.