By: Max Davies, F1 Correspondent
- Hamilton takes 2nd fastest time for McLaren
- Not all drivers happy with new-spec hard tire
Continuing his earlier pace-setting form in the Red Bull, Mark Webber set the fastest lap in the second free practice session for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
Despite the Australian and his team mate Sebastian Vettel running nearly two seconds clear of their nearest rivals through the middle part of the session, there was encouragement for McLaren with Lewis Hamilton splitting the Red bull pair and ending the day a mere 0.039s adrift of Webber.
“The car ran well today; we’ve still got some work to do, but it was one of our better Fridays,” Webber declared. “It’s the first time we’ve run the RB7 in Barcelona in these temperatures, so the team’s learned quite a lot. Tyres are a big factor here, we know that, so we will be looking to manage them as best we can.”
Hamilton though was less complimentary of the new ‘harder-spec’ rubber brought by sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli, the British 2008 champion declaring:
“The car was OK once we got to the better tire. I think everyone was much, much happier with the [soft] tire. The super hard is a disaster that wasn’t nice to drive. A two-second difference, and they don’t last longer.”
Asked to elaborate, he proffered: “It was feeling pretty poor this morning with the new super hard tire. I don’t know why they’ve brought that tire because the previous tire was pretty good. It looks pretty difficult to switch on, and then to last, it’s just sliding.”
Fourth in the second McLaren, Jenson Button was content with his day’s work and remained hopeful the new upgrades would see him closer to the front.
There is more pace in the car, we’ve just got to unleash it
"There is more pace in the car, we’ve just got to unleash it and find a balance that I like,” he confirmed. “The longer run was reasonable, even if we got a slightly different result than we expected. But it’s all good information and I think we can get a good balance for the race - now I need to focus on sorting out the rear-end for qualifying."
Fifth for Ferrari, Fernando Alonso remained optimistic that despite the gap to Red Bull, both his outfit and McLaren would be able to make it difficult for the championship leaders come Sunday’s race.
“We are testing so many parts and trying to analyse everything tonight and put the best combination tomorrow,” said Alonso ahead of final free practice and qualifying tomorrow. “There were new parts in my car. There were different parts in Felipe’s, so we need to make a mix now of what works, what doesn’t work, and tomorrow hopefully be more competitive.”
“No surprises, Red Bull in front of everybody, I think there is this circuit and also Budapest we saw last year that it seems to suit their philosophy of car. We knew this, especially in qualifying it will be tough to beat them, but in the race everything seems to be more close.”
Sixth and seventh were Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher for Mercedes GP with the latter keen to banish memories of his dire performance two weeks ago in Turkey and claim a top-six placing in qualifying.
"We have had quite a reasonable Friday and have clearly demonstrated an upwards tendency with our improvements seeming to work well," the seven-time champion said.
"Saying that, the other teams have improved too, so without having had a chance to look deeper into the data, I would say that we may be fighting for the third row and we will continue to work further on our performance for tomorrow."
Running 0.8s off his Ferrari team mate, Felipe Massa claimed eighth ahead of the ever impressive Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and the Renault’s of Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov who were split by the second Sauber of Sergio Perez.
“It was a very positive day for us,” the Mexican rookie announced after a day spent analysing the newly-fitted upgrades. “We were learning a lot about our aero update and the new tyre compound. As it is quite slow compared to the soft compound, you will obviously want to use the soft ones as much as you can in the race.
We were learning a lot about our aero update
“We have to analyse a lot of data now, and then we want to make sure we improve our qualifying performance tomorrow and get proper grid positions.”
Williams’ Rubens Barrichello split the Toro Rosso pairing of Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari who claimed 13th and 15th respectively while Pastor Maldonado finished 16th in the other Williams.
Having handed the keys to Nico Hulkenberg for the morning’s running, Scottish rookie Paul di Resta beat his Force India team mate Adrian Sutil on his way to 17th while the experienced German finished 19th.
"I missed the morning session so there was a big workload to get through in the afternoon,” said di Resta. “It was the first time I’d been in the car with the entire new package and we always knew it would be a big change compared to what we were used to.
The car feels very different and it’s clear we have lots of work to do to understand the new parts and get the most from them. By the end of the afternoon we had definitely improved the car quite a bit, but we need to sit down tonight and think about how we should approach tomorrow."
Splitting the Force India’s, Team Lotus appeared to have got their sums right with their new upgrades seeing Heikki Kovalainen finish in 18th and Jarno Trulli claiming 20th.
"I think we've seen an improvement today on where we were and throughout the sessions we could see that we were getting more and more out of the new package,” Kovalainen said. “The gap to the cars ahead seems reasonably small so I think it's all positive.
"The key point is that there is a lot more to come out of it. Optimising the whole update will take time and even though the car felt good on both the options and the primes we know that after going through the data tonight we can make more improvements tomorrow, and in the coming races."
Continuing their fight to keep up the pace, the Marussia Virgin and Hispania pairings of Jerome d'Ambrosio, Timo Glock, Narain Karthikeyan and Tonio Liuzzi filling the remaining positions, some seven seconds off the pace.