After the rain-affected F1 free practice session, GP2 drivers found conditions drying up with even some sunshine in evidence as they headed out onto the new-configuration Silverstone circuit for practice for the fifth round of the 2011 GP2 season.
Most cars were out on wet tyres for the initial installation lap before returning to pit lane to switch to slick tyres, which meant a rather quiet and subdued first ten minutes of the half hour proceedings; Stefano Coletti put in an early fast time of 1:55.297s, with none of the championship front-runners setting times at this stage.
Once the slick tyres kicked in, Rodolfo Gonzalez went top at the midpoint of the session with a 1:45.526s lap just ahead of Luca Filippi who did a 1:45.947s before the Super Nova immediately improved and went top again with a 1:43.300s after setting purple sectors for all three stages.
Filippi's time stood for another five minutes although Dani Clos closed the gap to around half a second, but on the stroke of ten minutes the drivers got serious and Romain Grosjean comprehensively took command of the timing screens with a 1:42.256s - a full second faster than Filippi's previous best. That was proof of the improving drier track conditions that were now encouraging the lead GP2 contenders to come out to play properly, with iSport's Sam Bird popping in ahead of Dani Clos for second.
Grosjean - who will be hit with a ten-place grid penalty
left over from causing an avoidable accident in the Valencia sprint race - further improved his time to become the first man to dip under the 1:42 mark, before Sam Bird improved his time with two minutes to go to claim the top spot with a lap of 1:41.763s, and Grosjean did not have the opportunity to challenge it as he spun through Copse on his final flying lap and took to the pits early before the chequered flag came out.
Bird's iSport team mate Marcus Ericsson also finished strongly in the session and popped up into third place with 1:42.293s. Grosjean's main title contender Giedo van der Garde left it to under three minutes remaining before finally setting a competitive time of 1:42.794s, which meant he ended the session in eighth place - but also in the inside barrier on the exit of Stowe after he lost control of the Barwa Addax in turn 15, having looked set to improve his time up till that point.
Davide Valsecchi had a strong last minute run to finish in fourth place in the timings with a 1:42.305s. Jules Bianchi - seeking to get his season back on track
after a string of bad luck and accidents - finished in tenth place on 1:42.933s, four places behind his young Lotus ART team mate Esteban Gutierrez who put in the sixth fastest time of the session with 1:42.668s as the young Argentinian came off his first GP2 series win in Valencia.
Qualifying for the Saturday GP2 feature race will take place from 2.55pm. The feature race takes place after F1 qualifying on Saturday afternoon at 2.40pm and will be held over 29 laps of the newly-configured venue. The sprint race will run for 14 laps on Sunday from 9.30am.
Full qualifying times