Webber sets early pace at Barcelona
Mark Webber got his Spanish Grand Prix weekend off to a solid start with the fastest time in first practice ahead of Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
Webber, who won at the Circuit de Catalunya last year, clocked the fastest time midway through the session and finished over a second faster than Vettel, who completed less laps and had a minor sensor problem on his car early in the session. However, the times are not the best indicator of what to expect later this weekend as drivers up and down the pit lane focused on assessing new upgrades and the Pirelli's new hard tyres.
Nico Rosberg was third fastest in the Mercedes, 1.237 seconds off Webber, and just ahead of Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, which Rosberg will be targeting over the weekend. Alonso's morning mainly consisted of testing new aerodynamic parts and it should be noted that he was running a very different program to team-mate Felipe Massa who was some way off the pace in 16th. But despite their different agendas both Ferrari drivers, as well as several others, complained of a lack of grip from the new tyres, although that should improve as the weekend goes on and more rubber is laid on the track.
One driver who coped with the slippery conditions better than most was Sergio Perez, who set the fifth fastest time in the heavily-revised Sauber. But despite the high ranking the Mexican was still 1.8 seconds off Webber, which is fairly consistent with the gap between the two at recent races.
Lewis Hamilton was sixth fastest as McLaren spent a busy morning trying to get a dozen or so upgrades working in unison on the MP4-26. Towards the end of the session Hamilton spent 15 minutes in the garage as his team worked furiously on the rear of his car making set-up changes. It remains to be seen whether the new parts will result in a significant step forward.
Michael Schumacher also had a heavy workload, completing 32 laps over the 90 minute session and setting the seventh fastest time. Nick Heidfeld was eighth fastest ahead of the second McLaren of Jenson Button in ninth.
Rubens Barrichello rounded out the top ten after a solid morning, which is more than can be said of his team-mate Pastor Maldonado who spun off for the second race weekend in a row. The Venezuelan struggled to control a lazy slide in turn 12 and ran into the gravel on the exit of the corner. The car was undamaged but became beached and his session was over with just 11 laps on the board.
The only driver to complete less mileage was Jaime Alguersuari, who had a problem with the Ferrari engine in the back of the Toro Rosso and sat out most of the session. Lotus' Jarno Trulli also had limited running after ongoing gremlins with the T128's power steering meant he completed just 12 laps in total.