Barcelona Practice 1: Alonso sets the early pace
11 May, 2012
May 11 (Apex) Local hero Fernando Alonso set the early pace in the first practice session of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend at Circuit de Catalunya, as the European leg of the 2012 Formula One world championship got underway.
Most of the teams, particularly the big guns, are expected to roll out some major updates to their cars during the course of the next three days but the first morning session – run under glorious sunshine and bright blue skies – did not witness any radical movement in the pecking order, however it is still early days and the track very ‘green’.
Alonso was late going out, but just after the hour mark his name was top of the timing screens, his best time 1 minute 24.430 set shortly after that which suggests that there is still substantial time to be found as the track rubbers-in and gets quicker.
Team mate Felipe Massa was just over a second down on Alonso’s best, 12th and the timing sheets.
Bahrain Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel topped the timing screens briefly in the Red Bull RB8, before Alonso got going. The reigning world champion ended the session second best.
Showing a good turn of speed, in the wake of some major upgrades first scene at Mugello, was Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber C31 who was fast throughout the session and racking up 28 laps in the process.
Fastest of the Mercedes powered brigade was Jenson Button with the fourth best time. Teammate Lewis Hamilton, whose car appeared to be on data capturing duty, as it emerged for it’s first run with a rear rake data acquisition tool. He ended the session eight fastest.
Neither of the McLaren drivers ran the higher nose version of the McLaren MP4-27, which is expected to make an appearance in Spain. They did however run an element on the nose which perhaps was gauging the drivers view from the cockpit.
Either way speculation is rife that the raised nose is part of a comprehensive front end over haul which the team will only release at the very last possible moment and hence keep their rivals guessing.
Meanwhile pitstop practice was very much in evidence in the McLaren pit box area with mechanics fussing with equipment as the team seek to streamline their wheel changing work after some costly blunders in past races.
Valtteri Bottas was one of a number of reserve drivers doing duty, the Finn replacing Bruno Senna for the first session, and impressing with the fifth fastest time in the Williams FW34.
Michael Schumacher only did 15 laps, ending sixth fastest with his team mate Nico Rosberg half a second slower in 14th.
Much is expected of the Lotus team this weekend, in the wake of their pace setting Mugello test, But with Romain Grosjean seventh and Kimi Raikkonen ninth it appears that duo have yet to be unleashed in anger. Grosjean spent most of the session watching his car being worked on and thus only completed 16 laps while Raikkonen racked up 29 laps – more than any other driver in the session.
Rounding out the top ten was Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India VJM04.
Apart from Bottas, other reserve drivers in action were: Jules Bianchi in the the Force India (18th), Alexander Rossi in the Caterham (21st) and Dani Clos in the HRT (24th).
Free Practice 1 – Barcelona, 11 May 2012
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:24.808||0.378||18|
|10||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:25.339||0.909||24|
|13||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:25.539||1.109||23|
|18||11||Jules Bianchi||Force India-Mercedes||1:26.630||2.200||21|
|23||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:29.107||4.677||19|
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