Local hero Fernando Alonso has ended the opening practice session of Spanish Grand Prix fastest overall, ahead of Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa. The Ferrari duo were closely followed by the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, who greatly impressed along with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo who eventually finished 11th overall.
After the searing heat and bright sunshine of Bahrain, the Formula 1 paddock reconvened in overcast and wet weather conditions at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya for the opening practice session of the weekend. Heavy rain had been falling on and off for the majority of the morning, presenting the drivers with a conundrum as the track was not treacherously wet, yet not dry enough for slick tyres. Once again Heikki Kovalainen and Rodolfo Gonzalez replaced their respective team-mates for the opening session.
Despite the inclement weather conditions, many drivers elected to take to the track once the green flag was flown. The Marussia of Jules Bianchi was followed out by the Force India of Adrian Sutil, both of whom initially elected for the full wet weather tyre. Behind this duo Esteban Gutierrez and Mark Webber took to the track, both utilizing the intermediate tyre compound. Romain Grosjean became the first driver to make a mistake in the tricky weather conditions, as the Frenchman spun under braking into Turn 10.
Although many drivers gradually took to the Circuit de Catalunya, it was some time before the first timed lap of the session was set by the Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg, who managed to produce a 01:51.644. The German driver quickly improved at the top during his next flying lap with a 01:48.508. Eventually a dry line began to appear on the circuit, as the track gradually began to dry out. This enabled the times at the top to tumble, with the likes of local hero Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean and Felipe Massa all momentarily setting the pace at the top of the timing sheets.
As the track conditions continued to improve, many drivers made minor errors as they pushed to the limit. Romain Grosjean and Adrian Sutil both ran wide at Turn 13, whereas Paul di Resta ran extensively wide at Turn 10. The Toro Rosso duo of Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo came alive as the session progressed, with the duo both momentarily rising to the top for the Faenza-based outfit. As the times continued to improve, Mark Webber asserted his authority over proceedings with a 01:41.658, which the Australian driver was able to improve upon with a 01:39.980 in later laps.
Fernando Alonso returned to the top of the timing sheets as the session progressed around the Circuit de Catalunya, with the track conditions continuing to improve after the wet beginnings. The Spaniard set a 01:38.732, which was quickly smashed by the improving Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo. However, Fernando Alonso soon returned to the top shortly after with a 01:36.645, as Nico Rosberg slotted into 2nd position for Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton rose to the top of the proceedings for Mercedes as the opening practice session entered its closing stages, with the 2008 World Champion setting a 01:36.159. Former sparring partner Felipe Massa then disposed of this time with a 01:36.005, before the Toro Rosso duo once again impressed many as Jean-Eric Vergne became the first to switch to dry tyres which enabled the Frenchman to set the fastest time with a 01:34.710. Daniel Ricciardo then joined his team-mate on the dry tyre and utterly obliterated the opposition with a 01:29.602, over five seconds faster than Jean-Eric Vergne.
However, Toro Rosso’s dominance was finally brought to a conclusion by the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, who returned to the top with a 01:26.918 as Felipe Massa ran extensively wide at Turn 7 and skipped through the perilous gravel trap. However, this failed to hamper the Brazilian’s pace, as he soon returned to the top with a 01:25.618. Just as the checkered flag emerged signaling the end of the session, local hero Fernando Alonso stormed to the top with a 01:25.252 to end the opening practice session fastest ahead of his team-mate with Jean-Eric Vergne a close 3rd for Toro Rosso.
Jenson Button was the only driver who failed to set a timed lap throughout the frenetic opening 90 minutes of track action, as he and team-mate Sergio Perez strive to optimize the upgrades introduced to their McLaren. The teams and drivers will return to the Circuit de Catalunya later in the day, for the second practice session of the weekend.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m25.252s 20 2. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m25.455s + 0.203s 20 3. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m25.667s + 0.415s 25 4. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m26.042s + 0.790s 21 5. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m26.212s + 0.960s 24 6. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m26.374s + 1.122s 19 7. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m26.456s + 1.204s 20 8. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m26.614s + 1.362s 21 9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m26.621s + 1.369s 21 10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m26.755s + 1.503s 16 11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m26.940s + 1.688s 26 12. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.061s + 1.809s 24 13. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m27.135s + 1.883s 6 14. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m27.250s + 1.998s 26 15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m27.576s + 2.324s 24 16. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m28.600s + 3.348s 19 17. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m28.887s + 3.635s 14 18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m29.177s + 3.925s 14 19. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m29.457s + 4.205s 11 20. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m29.473s + 4.221s 21 21. Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia-Cosworth 1m30.314s + 5.062s 12 22. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes no time 6
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