F1 » 11 May 2012
Button fastest on opening day of Spanish GP
Jenson Button shrugged off handling problems to put his McLaren at the top of the opening day timesheets in Barcelona.
He may have spent much of the day complaining about the level of understeer - and, on one occasion, 'unbelievable understeer' - affecting his McLaren, but Jenson Button still emerged at the top of the timesheets as F1 action ended on day one of the Spanish Grand Prix.
While repeated visits to the pit-lane for attention from the McLaren mechanics failed to eradicate the problem, Button - running without the sensors and 'sighting bar' his car featured in FP1 - found solace on a set of the softer Pirelli tyres, vaulting to the head of the times with a 1min 23.399secs lap as the handling of his MP4-27 was suddenly more to his liking.
Button's lap proved to be 0.164secs too good for world champion Sebastian Vettel who, having moved into P1 after his own switch to the soft 'option' rubber, was unable to respond to the Briton's improvement. As he had while evaluating new aero parts in the opening 90-minute session earlier in the day, Vettel had to settle for second spot in the order, having fended off the second McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, who would ultimately end up in fourth spot following a late gain from Mercedes' Nico Rosberg.
With Fernando Alonso's FP1 pace only proving good enough for 13th on the combined charts, after the Spaniard failed to improve second time around, the afternoon frontrunners were also the best of the day. Behind Hamilton, both Lotus drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, also ducked into the 1min 23s, with RBR's Mark Webber and Rosberg's Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher only narrowly missing out on joining them.
The top ten, completed by Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg, were all within a second of Button's pace, with Ferrari's Felipe Massa again the first man the other side of the line. Raikkonen and Grosjean, however, looked the most consistent on longer runs, suggesting that they may have the better race pace, although Friday's results - further complicated in Barcelona by the number of development parts being evaluated alongside the mix of programmes - remain a poor guide to the rest of the weekend.
The session was not without incident, with Webber, Heikki Kovalainen and Sergio Perez all taking unscheduled trips through the gravel, while the luckless Narain Karthikeyan, having been stranded in the pits by an electrical problem for much of the opening half-hour, managed just a couple of laps before his HRT ground to a halt at turn three, leaving the Indian without a time and, more importantly, with very little track time having been replaced by Dani Clos in FP1.
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