BARCELONA: Spaniard Fernando Alonso set the fastest time in thefirst session of free practice Friday at the Formula One circuit atMontmelo outside Barcelona ahead of Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix asthe local favourite outpaced defending world champion SebastianVettel in the closing minutes. Three weeks after the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix, Vettel ofRed Bull led the way for much of the session before SpaniardAlonso, a two-time champion, clocked his best lap of one minute and24.430 seconds to outpace him by less than one-tenth of a second. Japanese Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber was third fastest ahead ofBriton Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, in his McLaren, runningwith a new raised nose on his car as the British team evaluated newideas to improve their race performances. Finnish rookie Valtteri Bottas, the Williams team's reserve andtest driver, was fifth quickest ahead of German Michael Schumacher,43, the seven-time champion, maintaining the competitive form ofthe Mercedes team this year. Frenchman Romain Grosjean was seventh for Renault, ahead of BritonLewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion, in the second McLaren, runninghis car with the lower nose configuration. |
Finn Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 champion, was ninth fastest forRenault ahead of German Nico Hulkenberg of Force India. Brazilian Felipe Massa was down in 12th in the second Ferrari aheadof Australian Mark Webber in the second Red Bull with German NicoRosberg 14th in the second Mercedes. On a dry, bright and warm morning at the Circuit de Catalunya, thefield were closely packed as they tested and developed new partsfor their revamped cars ahead of the opening race of the Europeanpart of the 2012 season. Alonso's performance in the closing stages suggested that Ferrarimay have either found a small performance breakthrough or run witha lighter fuel load to appease their fans - and locals supportingAlonso back on Spanish soil.
Bottas was the fastest of the rookie reserve drivers in action, wayahead of the nearest rival in that category, Frenchman JulesBianchi, who was 18th for Force India, American Alex Rossi, who was19th for Caterham and local boy Spaniard Dani Clos who was 24th andlast, a full 2.5 seconds slower than his compatriot and Hispaniateam-mate Pedro de la Rosa. Fastest times 1. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Ferrari) 1:24.430 2. Sebastian Vettel (GER/Red Bull) 1:24.808 3.
Kamui Kobayashi (JPN/Sauber) 1:24.912 4. Jenson Button (GBR/McLaren Mercedes) 1:24.996 5. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Williams) 1:25.120 6. Michael Schumacher (GER/Mercedes AMG) 1:25.187 7.
Romain Grosjean (FRA/Lotus) 1:25.217 8. Lewis Hamilton (GBR/McLaren Mercedes) 1:25.252 9. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/Lotus) 1:25.285 10. Nico Huelkenberg (GER/Force India-Mercedes) 1:25.339 11. Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA/Toro Rosso) 1:25.367 12.
Felipe Massa (BRA/Ferrari) 1:25.433 13. Mark Webber (AUS/Red Bull) 1:25.539 14. Nico Rosberg (GER/Mercedes AMG) 1:25.607 15. Sergio Perez (MEX/Sauber) 1:25.918 16. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Toro Rosso) 1:26.226 17.
Pastor Maldonado (VEN/Williams) 1:26.297 18. Jules Bianchi (FRA/Force India-Mercedes) 1:26.630 19. Vitaly Petrov (RUS/Caterham) 1:27.475 20. Timo Glock (GER/Marussia) 1:28.267 21.
Alexander Rossi (USA/Caterham) 1:28.448 22. Charles Pic (FRA/Marussia) 1:28.633 23. Pedro de la Rosa (ESP/HRT) 1:29.107 24. Dani Clos (ESP/HRT) 1:31.618 - AFP/ck.
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