• Spanish Grand Prix - FP1

Alonso sets early pace in Barcelona

ESPN Staff
May 11, 2012
Fernando Alonso was over 0.3s quicker than Sebastian Vettel © Sutton Images

Home favourite Fernando Alonso set the early pace after the first session of free practice for the Spanish Grand Prix on a balmy Barcelona morning as track temperatures climbed to just shy of 30 degrees.

Alonso completed 20 laps of the circuit, clocking a quickest time of 1:24.430 as his Ferrari team carried out an important first session to continue to test different aerodynamic upgrades they ran at Mugello. Having downplayed expectations yesterday, Alonso spent the first 40 minutes in the garage before topping the timesheets and then lowering his best time on his next run.

Bahrain Grand Prix winner and championship leader Sebastian Vettel was second fastest for Red Bull ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, with the Chelsea-branded Sauber having held top spot for the majority of the session.

McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were the first to complete any meaningful laps, the McLaren running a new front wing assembly with a new higher front nose. Early in the session the MP4-27 also ran with a visible bar running across the its nose, which the team explained was "a blanking strip to simulate potential sight-lines for next year's car". Having initially carried out back-to-back comparisons the pair ended the session both running the higher nose, suggesting it's an approach the team will adopt this weekend. Button finished the session fourth quickest from Williams reserve driver Valtteri Bottas and Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton ended up eighth quickest, sandwiched between the Lotus' of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen - who was running a new front wing later in the session and completed the most laps having missed Mugello. Updates were being trialled up and down the pit lane, with flo-viz paint and aerodynamic sensors on display early on. Last week's test doesn't appear to have spread the field out, however, as just 1.1 seconds covered the top 14 cars.

It was a low-key session for Mercedes with Schumacher only completing 15 laps and Nico Rosberg ending the running in 14th place. Further down the field, Pedro de la Rosa had a productive session analysing the new HRT aerodynamic package after the team opted to skip Mugello. He completed 19 laps but did lose a piece of bodywork which had to be retrieved from turn one.

There were solid debuts for Alexander Rossi at Caterham and Dani Clos in the other HRT, though Clos' running was prematurely ended when his car rolled to a halt at the top of the pit lane with 15 minutes of the session still to run. Lap times are likely to drop significantly in FP2 as teams will run the soft tyre for the first time, with only the hard compound seen this morning.