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Red Bull on top in Spain, but Hamilton asks them questions

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Red Bull on top in Spain, but Hamilton asks them questions
May 20, 2011, 3:27 PM

Today's first day of practice at Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix showed a varied picture, with Red Bull over a second clear in first practice,...

Today's first day of practice at Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix showed a varied picture, with Red Bull over a second clear in first practice, but Lewis Hamilton's McLaren pushing them hard over a single lap in the second session, ending up less than a tenth of a second down on Mark Webber.

But Sebastian Vettel, who was third, has generally been a few tenths ahead of Webber in qualifying this season, so we've not necessarily seen the full picture today. All of the leading drivers set their fastest times on the first lap of a short run on new tyres, however Vettel's run was five laps, while Webber and Hamilton did three. Vettel went faster again in the first two sector on the second lap on the tyres, but couldn't keep the tyre in for the final sector of that lap.

Vettel also did a very strong long run on the hard tyre with consistent lap times in the 1m 28s range, so the world champion looks like the man to beat again.

Red Bull went for the soft Pirelli tyre roughly half way through the session, but Hamilton set a time good enough to split the two champion cars a little later on. With Pirelli bringing the new specification hard tyre here this weekend it looks like the performance gap between hard and soft is well over the one second margin we have seen thus far this season. That will have quite a lot of repercussions on how teams tackle the first part of qualifying and also the race strategy.

Up to now the leading teams have just about been able to get away with running a set of hards in Q1 and then one run in each of Q2 and Q3 to save a new set of soft tyres for the race. If no midfield team has a problem in Q1, some of the front runners may find that they have to use a set of softs to get through, which will penalise them in the race. Mark Webber was caught out this way in China, unable to get enough speed out of his hard tyre run in Q1 after some problems in the session.

Ferrari were fifth with Fernando Alonso and eighth with Felipe Massa, who seemed to be having quite a few handling issues with the car on the hard tyre. On board shots showed the car suffering quite a bit of understeer.

Ferrari again were testing out a new type of front wing which we saw in Turkey briefly. It has an extra flap connecting the main plane to the inner side of the end plate, a device which has some function in terms of flex, but is mainly to tidy up vortices which have been causing some instability at the front end of the Ferrari.

SPANISH GRAND PRIX, Barcelona, Free Practice 2

1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m22.470s 35 laps

2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m22.509s + 0.039 27 laps

3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m22.826s + 0.356 37 laps

4. Jenson Button McLaren 1m23.188s + 0.718 32 laps

5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m23.568s + 1.098 34 laps

6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m23.586s + 1.116 35 laps

7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m23.981s + 1.511 30 laps

8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m24.278s + 1.808 30 laps

9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m24.290s + 1.820 33 laps

10. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m24.366s + 1.896 31 laps

11. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m24.483s + 2.013 38 laps

12. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m24.786s + 2.316 43 laps

13. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m25.296s + 2.826 33 laps

14. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m25.303s + 2.833 38 laps

15. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m25.457s + 2.987 34 laps

16. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m25.603s + 3.133 43 laps

17. Paul di Resta Force India 1m26.073s + 3.603 32 laps

18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m26.417s + 3.947 37 laps

19. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m27.123s + 4.653 20 laps

20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m27.189s + 4.719 34 laps

21. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin 1m28.036s + 5.566 36 laps

22. Timo Glock Virgin 1m28.062s + 5.592 28 laps

23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m29.469s + 6.999 28 laps

24. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m29.476s + 7.006 31 laps
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