Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time on the first day of practice for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. The German, who has had three pole positions already this season and one win, easily topped the times in the faster second session in the afternoon.
He set a lap of 1m 19.965, which is 1/100th of a second slower than the outright fastest lap in qualifying last year. Red Bull team mate Mark Webber was second fastest with Michael Schumacher in the revised Mercedes third. The Red Bull pair were separated by just 2/10ths of a second.
Many rivals, including Fernando Alonso were saying after the session that the Red Bulls are untouchable this weekend, but Vettel sounded a note of caution, saying that the McLarens in particular are the cars he fears,
“We’ve got a few changes on our car, but I don’t think anything as significant as perhaps some of the other teams. I think we’ve proved today that our changes work. The lap times are irrelevant from Friday. It’s good to be fast but I thing the McLarens are quick here – I don’t think they were pushing today. It will be much closer tomorrow.”
McLaren topped the times in the morning session, with Lewis Hamilton ahead of Jenson Button, but in the afternoon Hamilton was fifth and Button 9th. The team has brought an extensive package of upgrades to this race including new front and rear wings, specifically targetted qualifying for improvement after having failed to better fourth on the grid this season. And as the Grand Prix in Barcelona tends to be won from pole, they will be aiming for at least one car on the front row. Button said that he is struggling to get the two tyre compounds to work in their ideal operating range.
Schumacher looked happier than he has of late in a Mercedes, featuring a revised front suspension layout to improve weight distribution and a new air intake, which helps the rear wing in particular. Schumacher was faster than team mate Nico Rosberg in both sessions today, but tomorrow’s qualifying will be the acid test.
Ferrari have looked slightly anxious this weekend, needing their upgraded car, with an F duct rear wing and a new front wing to bring them closer to the pace of Red Bull. Alonso was fourth fastest with Felipe Massa 8th.
For Williams Nico Hulkenberg was running a car with a few updates to the diffuser and sidepods and had an off in it, while team mate Rubens Barrichello is running a new floor on his car and wound up 15th. Hulkenberg will have the new floor tomorrow. Technical director Sam Michael said that the team has a new front wing for tomorrow as well.
Renault had a strong day with Robert Kubica seventh in the morning and sixth in the afternoon. They have a smaller package of upgrades than many of the others having brought forward the new front wing to China.
Of the new teams Lotus were fastest, while Timo Glock debuted the new Virgin longer chassis, which gives them a correctly sized fuel tank. He set the slowest time of the 24 car field.
SPANISH GRAND PRIX PRACTICE TIMES
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:19.965 24
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:20.175 + 0.210 35
3. Schumacher Mercedes 1:20.757 + 0.792 28
4. Alonso Ferrari 1:20.819 + 0.854 30
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.191 + 1.226 23
6. Kubica Renault 1:21.202 + 1.237 36
7. Rosberg Mercedes 1:21.271 + 1.306 27
8. Massa Ferrari 1:21.302 + 1.337 25
9. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.364 + 1.399 26
10. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:21.518 + 1.553 32
11. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1:21.672 + 1.707 37
12. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:21.904 + 1.939 32
13. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:21.931 + 1.966 29
14. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:22.184 + 2.219 37
15. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:22.192 + 2.227 33
16. Petrov Renault 1:22.435 + 2.470 35
17. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:22.449 + 2.484 34
18. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:23.765 + 3.800 7
19. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:24.209 + 4.244 26
20. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:24.894 + 4.929 22
21. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:25.066 + 5.101 30
22. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:25.972 + 6.007 23
23. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:26.152 + 6.187 25
24. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:26.596 + 6.631 21