Mark Webber topped the first free practice session ahead of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
The Red Bull pilot set his best during a 27 lap session that saw him a clear one second quicker than his nearest rival and teammate, Sebastian Vettel.
While Webber’s best time of 1:25.142 set him apart from the pack, it gave an indication that the Red Bull pairing may have been splitting strategies, with the reigning champion concentrating on race set-ups. Vettel was also handicapped for much of the session thanks to an inactive KERS.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg finished the session 3rd, one-tenth shy of Vettel. Rosberg’s veteran teammate, Michael Schumacher, took 7th, with a best of 1:27.016 after a 32 lap morning – the silver pair squeezed Fernando Alonso (4th, Ferrari), Sergio Perez (5th, Sauber) and Lewis Hamilton (6th, McLaren).
Several teams brought large aerodynamic updates to the track, including McLaren, Force India and Lotus. Both Virgin and Williams arrived with modified floors and exhausts, while Hispania ran practice with several new aerodynamic pieces. It is a first for the tiny squad, who ran with the same version car all through 2010; however Hispania broke the curfew as they rushed to fix the new parts onto the F1-11.
Pirelli also brought delivered a new hard compound tyre. The Italian company modified the compound to last longer, in order to give teams more scope for race strategy.
Renault’s Vitaly Petrov secured 11th, minus the use of his KERS, losing a-tenth to his team mate, Nick Heidfeld (8th).
Toro Rosso’s under pressure racer, Jaime Alguersuari only managed nine laps, before an engine installation problem stopped his morning prematurely – he assumed 18th spot, some 1.5 seconds and six position shy of reserve pilot, Daniel Ricciardo.
Pastor Maldonado also got limited running due to an error in the latter half of the session. The Venezuelan suffered a slow speed off at the tight turn ten right-hander, leaving his Williams FW33 beached in the gravel. It left Maldonado classified 13th; eight-tenths shy of fellow Williams runner, Rubens Barrichello (10th).
Nico Hulkenberg sat in for Paul di Resta at Force India. The young German drove opposite his stressed teammate, Adrian Sutil, with Hulkenberg pipping Sutil to a better lap as the clock stopped.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m25.142s 27 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m26.149s + 1.007 20 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m26.379s + 1.237 29 4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m26.480s + 1.338 27 5. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.738s + 1.596 26 6. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m26.988s + 1.846 19 7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m27.016s + 1.874 32 8. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m27.132s + 1.990 21 9. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m27.138s + 1.996 22 10. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m27.212s + 2.070 20 11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m27.241s + 2.099 22 12. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m27.471s + 2.329 23 13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m28.005s + 2.863 11 14. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m28.027s + 2.885 26 15. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m28.163s + 3.021 22 16. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m28.654s + 3.512 28 17. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m28.819s + 3.677 23 18. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m28.995s + 3.853 9 19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m29.231s + 4.089 21 20. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m30.896s + 5.754 18 21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m31.235s + 6.093 24 22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m31.268s + 6.126 23 23. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m31.418s + 6.276 12 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m32.106s + 6.964 25