By: Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
- Mark Webber tops morning session
- Alonso fastest in the afternoon
Friday Practice Session One
During morning practice it was Mark Webber who set the pace, the Australian clocked the fastest time with 1m40.597s, but surprisingly enough, his team colleague Sebastian Vettel was 2.538s slower and his time was only good for 6th place. Webber had been fastest almost all morning and towards the end of the session notched it up a little and posted his fastest lap time.
Vitaly Petrov recorded the second fastest time for Lotus Renault, albeit with a little over eight tenths of a second slower than Webber. The Russian experienced some overheating problems earlier into the session, but after his mechanics had fixed the problem he was able to take second place with 20 minutes to go. He was again faster than his German team colleague Nick Heidfeld, who after he had lapped the circuit 24 times scored fifth position.
Third place was for local Spanish driver Fernando Alonso, who was just a few thousands of a second slower than Petrov. Second Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, like many others, had a few moments at Turn 12 but drove his Ferrari 150° Italia to sixth place.
Lewis Hamilton had been doing aerodynamic tests with his McLaren, but despite that and the fact he complained about overheating brakes, scored fourth position with a time of 1m41.510s, which was 1.107s slower than Webber. Jenson Button, who only completed 14 laps had a pretty uneventful morning session and took seventh place.
Most drivers spent the morning testing the new medium compound Pirellis, as they only had tested them once in Canada two weeks ago. Several teams also used the morning practice to test their car without the ‘off-throttle’ blown diffuser to establish how much time they will lose without the hot exhaust gasses flowing through the diffuser.
Adrian Sutil scored an eighth place for Force India after he had been in the top six early on, but reserve-driver Nico Hulkenberg ended his practice early when he hit the wall at Turn 12 after just 7 laps and had to use the escape road to park his damaged VJM 04. The German had already had a few scary moments due to the slippery track conditions a few laps earlier, and finally lost control under breaking for Turn 12.
About 15 minutes later Pastor Maldonado locked up his front tyres at Turn 12, but managed to keep his Williams out of the wall thanks to the large run-off area and the Venezuelan was able to continue his practice session, finally ending up on 15th place, exactly 0.100s ahead of Vettel. Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello outpaced his colleague and was 13th, 2.301s slower than first man Webber.
Nico Rosberg was the fastest of the Mercedes drivers, and although he too had a few moments and ran wide at Turn 12, the German landed ninth position. Seven-times World Champion and oldest driver of the field Michael Schumacher was 0.227s slower in his number seven Mercedes and had to settle for 11th position.
The other local Spanish hero Jaime Alguersuari was tenth for Toro Rosso, he had been fast all morning, and faster than reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo who this time drove Sebastien Buemi’s car to a 12th position and was therefore the fastest rookie during the morning session on the streets of Valencia.
Number 14 on the time sheets was Mexican Sergio Perez, who this time had no complaints about dizziness and nausea like he experienced during the first practice in Canada, and it is expected he will run all weekend, which means Pedro de la Rosa, who replaced Perez in Canada, will this weekend only participate in the European Grand Prix as a spectator.
Kamui Kobayashi in the other Sauber noted a very unimpressive 17th time, while Team Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen was the fastest of the ‘newest’ teams, but didn’t get further than 19th position. Karun Chandhok finally got his ride with Team Lotus, but it wasn’t a good session for him, after he went out for his first lap, the Indian slowed down on the track and barely made it back to the garage, it later was established he had a gearbox problem, and he had to end the session without setting a time.
Timo Glock was 21st after he lost control of his Marussia Virgin at Turn 5 at the end of the session, but nevertheless managed to just miss the barrier and parked his car on the run-off area. Both HRT drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan did what they always do, and took 22nd and 23rd position respectively.
Friday Practice Session Two
As more rubber was laid on the Valencia circuit, the cars went quicker and the lap times went down, albeit the fastest times were all set on the soft Option tyres. Alonso was the lucky winner this time and posted a time of 1m37.968s, almost 2.5 seconds faster than the fastest time of the morning session.
Second Ferrari driver Massa experienced a hairy moment in Turn 8 just ahead of the bridge that spans the harbor, but managed to recover and could continue without damage. He was initially a lot slower than Alonso, but after a few runs on the soft compound and finished the afternoon in fifth place, just half a second slower than his team colleague.
Hamilton could not improve Alonso’s time, he tried hard and locked up the wheels of his MP4-26 several times, but finished second behind the Spaniard. Button was less happy with his performance, and complained about lack of grip and oversteer before he finally took sixth position.
This time Vettel was back where he belongs: at the top of the time sheets. He was quick straight from the start and clocked third fastest time for Red Bull. Webber was now slower and didn’t get further than seventh position. Schumacher this time outpaced Rosberg and flew around the circuit in 1m38.315s, which was sufficient for fourth place. Rosberg spent 33 laps on the circuit but could not match Schumacher’s time, and ended up in eighth position.
Both Lotus Renault drivers completed this afternoon’s top ten, Heidfeld took ninth and Petrov tenth place. Especially at the end of the afternoon session there was a lot of traffic, and many drivers had problems with slower competitors and had to abandon a fast lap, then backed off and started a new run again.
Sutil was again the fastest of the Force India drivers and clocked 11th time, 1.658s slower than Alonso. His team colleague Paul di Resta wasn’t so lucky, he had to wait until his mechanics had repaired the damage to his car after Hulkenberg crash in the morning, and the Scot had to set his time with only ten minutes to go. He did a decent job and finished the day in 14th position.
Both Williams drivers Barrichello and Maldonado finished in 12th and 13th place, Maldonado was three-tenths of a second slower than Barrichello. Sebastien Buemi was the second driver who hadn’t participated in the morning session as Ricciardo had taken over his car in the morning, but he at least could start the afternoon with an undamaged car and set a 15th time.
Alguersuari could not not participate in the afternoon session, as his Toro Rosso had an engine problem and he was forced to sit out practice in the garage.
Perez was again faster than Kobayashi and took 16th place, while the Japanese finished in 17 position, one and a half second slower than Perez. Kovalainen was again the fastest of the newest teams nad landed 18th position, while Jarno Trulli took his Lotus after the gearbox problem Chandhok experienced was fixed to 19th place.
Glock was 20th, Jerome d’Ambrosio 21st, and both HRT drivers Liuzzi and Karthikeyan were 22nd and 23rd, Karthikeyan was nine seconds slower than first man Alsono.