GP2 was welcomed back to Europe by blue skies and brilliant sunshine over the Circuit de Catalunya, for the Friday practice session ahead of the fourth round of races of the 2012 season.
With Barcelona being as familiar to the GP2 drivers from testing as it is to the F1 field, there was little motivation for anyone to put in too much hard work in the morning practice session.
The teams were further dissuaded from too many runs by the choice of tyre compounds that Pirelli had handed them for the weekend: while the prime tyres were the hard compound rubber, the options skipped the medium and went to the soft compound, with immediate apparent effects for both grip and for very limited durability.
As a result, teams were only willing to burn through one set of prime tyres in practice, the majority of them coming out early in the session to run through a reduced program and then park the cars for the remainder of the half hour.
Rapax's Tom Dillmann and Arden's Luiz Razia picked up where they had left off in Bahrain by putting in the top two competitive times of the morning ahead of Fabrizio Crestani (Lazarus) and Julian Leal (Trident).
DAMS' Felipe Nasr then popped to the top of the time with a lap of 1:31.820s, and Giedo van der Garde put Caterham top a minute later with a lap of 1:31.331s, and his team mate Rodolofo Gonzalez slotted into third place behind Nasr before he was bumped by Max Chilton in the Carlin.
A little under nine minutes into the session, series returnee Josef Kral punched in a lap of 1:31.109 in the Barwa Addax car to steal the top position from van der Garde, with what proved to be the best time of anyone in practice. Nasr improved his own time a couple of minutes later to get to within thirteen hundreds of a second of the leader before his run was over.
The Lotus GP cars came out for their runs around the mid-point of the session, and while James Calado immediately put in a lap good enough for second place in the timesheets less than six hundredths of a second off Kral's best. The same couldn't be said for his more experienced team mate Esteban Gutiérrez who seemed to be struggling with lock-ups in all his best chances of a flying lap.
The star of Bahrain, DAMS' Davide Valsecchi, had a relaxed time of it and never seemed to be pushing for the fastest time, which was just as well as his left steering vane had become loose and was flapping around during his only set of runs of the morning. He ended the morning in sixth place, less then three tenths off the leader's time.
By the end of the session, almost everyone had had their fill of practice and were relaxing back on pit lane. Only Johnny Cecotto and Ricardo Teixeira were still out on track when the chequered flag came out to formally end proceedings.
There had been a troubled début for Ocean Racing Technology's latest recruit Victor Guerin, whose car suffered a technical problem in the first few minutes and had to crawl back round the circuit at little better than walking pace for the team to get to work tackling the gremlins. However he did get back out on track later on, and ran 10 laps in total in his attempt to catch up the other drivers in terms of local track knowledge.
Full practice times available