10 May 2013
Alonso sets early Spanish GP pace
Fernando Alonso posted a late improvement to claim top spot on the FP1 timesheets in Barcelona.
Ferrari emerged at the head of the timesheets in a largely inconclusive session for the F1 teams as the action resumed at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
Persistent rain ahead of the session ensured that the track remained wet for much of the 90 minutes, with the braver souls only venturing onto slicks in the closing stages, as they attempted to gain a little data on Pirelli's new 'prototype' tyre, which was made available for the first time in the session.
Naturally, the best times were posted right at the end of the session, with Fernando Alonso vaulting to the top of the list as the chequered flag was being prepared. The Spaniard set the early weekend benchmark at 1min 25.252secs, although the effect of the conditions showed as he lagged nearly three seconds from last year's comparable dry weather best.
Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa completed a 1-2 for the Scuderia, having led the way on several occasions before being pipped by Alonso. The Brazilian was charged with running Ferrari's various updates and consequently completed longer runs that his team-mate, although both logged 20 tours during the session.
Jean-Eric Vergne, the first to switch to slicks, claimed third spot, despite reporting that his car was touching the track more than he would have liked. The Frenchman was two-tenths off Massa, who had been a similar margin from his team-mate.
The unusual look to the top five was completed by Romain Grosjean and Adrian Sutil, who took fourth and fifth respectively for Lotus and Force India, while Lewis Hamilton was sixth, and best Mercedes, despite a little 'tit for tat' spoiling of fastest laps with one of the Red Bulls. In fairness to Hamilton, he was forced to back off by a slower car ahead of him, but that did not prevent him from being hampered next time around.
Valtteri Bottas took advantage of the slowly improving conditions to post the seventh-best time of the session for Williams, with Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg and Paul di Resta rounding out the top ten, each – like Hamilton and Bottas – over a second off the pace after not having the right tyres at the right time.
Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg were next up, before Sergio Perez put the best of the McLarens into 13th spot. With the weather as it was, the time was not representative of what might be possible with the raft of upgrades destined for the MP4-28 this weekend as the Mexican completed only six laps. Team-mate Jenson Button covered the same distance, but failed to record a time, leaving him at the foot of the table.
Red Bull also took the decision not to venture out until the track was in better – ie drier – condition, but did not set any rapid laps. Hence Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber joined Button at the 'wrong' end of the list, the world champion 19th and Webber 20th overall.
Only Rodolfo Gonzalez sat between the RB9s and Button, the Venezuelan getting another outing in his role as Marussia reserve, this time at the expense of Max Chilton. Team-mate Jules Bianchi helped sandwich the Red Bulls, but trailed the revised Caterhams of Heikki Kovalainen – getting a second 'development' outing in place of Charles Pic – and Giedo van der Garde.
Although almost every team had developments of sorts to try during the session, more will be seen should the weather hold out for FP2.
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