Fernando Alonso gave the home fans something to smile about by topping the timesheets in opening practice for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver ended the 90 minute session almost 0.4s faster than Sebastian Vettel.
With Ferrari bringing a host of upgrades it was encouraging for the Spaniard to set the pace but with his teammate, Felipe Massa, continuing to struggle it is looking, once again, that Alonso will be forced to do the heavy lifting this weekend.
Vettel completed 18 laps and the German looks to be in solid form and worryingly for the rest of the grid it is clear that Red Bull are getting more and more comfortable with the RB7. The reigning constructors champions were initially outpaced by McLaren in the season’s early races but they have come back strong and Barcelona is a traditional stomping ground of Adrian Newey’s cars.
McLaren have brought a heavily revised front wing to this race. Having missed the Mugello test it was crucial that both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton got as much mileage as possible in this morning’s session. As a result it was of little surprise that the McLaren drivers completed 53 laps throughout the session.
Sauber had a strong morning with Kamui Kobayashi third fastest. The Swiss car suffers least from tyre degradation and with Barcelona notoriously hard on tyres this could play a key role in a strong weekend for the Japanese driver and Sergio Perez.
Williams’ test driver, Valtteri Bottas, ended the session a very impressive fifth fastest. The 22 year old replaced Bruno Senna for the session. Michael Schumacher set the sixth fastest time with the German completing 15 laps, the fewest of the session. It remains to be seen if the Mercedes team have resolved the tyre wear issues that have troubled them at times this season but with the entire field using only the prime tyre throughout this session as they cleaned the track there is precious little that can be taken from the majority of the running.
This afternoon’s session in just over two hours will paint a much more accurate picture.