On a cool morning at the Nurburgring, Fernando Alonso topped the opening practice session for the German Grand Prix.
So off-colour were the conditions, numerous drivers struggled with tyre and brake temperature throughout practice, with several outbraking themselves and running off circuit.
Alonso was one of the few that kept his machine steady, recording a best time of 1:31.894 – over three-tenths quicker than the Red Bull pairing of Mark Webber (2nd) and Sebastian Vettel (3rd). Felipe Massa assumed 4th position in the second Ferrari, albeit nearly eight-tenths off Alonso’s ultimate pace.
Ferrari approached this weekend with some refined updates and should the first session be true to form, the Italian squad may be able to consolidate their British Grand Prix form.
McLaren arrived at the Nurburgring with a new rear wing (tested by Jenson Button) and several minor aero upgrades. The pair would find themselves well shy of the leading Ferrari, with Lewis Hamilton 5th (1.1 seconds slower) and Button in 6th (1.7 seconds down).
Hamilton and Button fared better than both Mercedes though. The turquoise cars, led by Nico Rosberg (7th) were both approximately 1.9 seconds off the pace. Michael Schumacher took 10th in the second Mercedes, but suffered a number of offs during the morning.
Mercedes have been attempting to claw back some of the gap to the leading three teams, but have as yet to find a breakthrough.
Force India brought several rear end upgrades to the track, helping them to 8th (Adrian Sutil) and 9th (Nico Hulkenberg) by the end of the session.
At this early stage, it seems that Force India may be on the verge of jumping Renault in the order. The Swiss-owned team tested new rearward facing exhausts in an attempt to halt their recent slump on form.
Come the chequered flag, Vitaly Petrov claimed 11th with a best of 1:34.094; some four places and 1.3 seconds quicker than under pressure teammate Nick Heidfeld, although Heidfeld was one of only a handful of drivers to set his best on the slower medium tyre.
Williams added new rear wings to their machines, while Rubens Barrichello took a front wing for practice. Barrichello secured 14th place following a 24 lap morning, while Pastor Maldonado struggled to 18th after 29 completed laps – some 4.9 seconds down on the quickest lap of the session.
As the session drew to a close, there two significant offs at turn five. The first of which came from Heikki Kovalainen in the Lotus as he bounced across the gravel, rejoining after the following corner.
More serious however, was Sebastien Buemi’s off . The Toro Rosso man lost his Ferrari-powered machine upon entry of the turn, before being launched by the gravel. The STR06 did not flip, but did reach considerable height at speed, coming down with thud in the trap.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m31.894s 30 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m32.217s + 0.323 24 3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m32.268s + 0.374 27 4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m32.681s + 0.787 23 5. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m32.996s + 1.102 18 6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m33.628s + 1.734 22 7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m33.787s + 1.893 33 8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m33.832s + 1.938 27 9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m33.858s + 1.964 26 10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m33.863s + 1.969 31 11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m34.094s + 2.200 22 12. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m35.115s + 3.221 23 13. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m35.371s + 3.477 20 14. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m35.389s + 3.495 24 15. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m35.444s + 3.550 22 16. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m36.371s + 4.477 22 17. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m36.392s + 4.498 29 18. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m36.842s + 4.948 29 19. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m36.882s + 4.988 27 20. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m38.504s + 6.610 22 21. Karun Chandhok Lotus-Renault 1m38.765s + 6.871 19 22. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m39.279s + 7.385 24 23. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m40.109s + 8.215 23 24. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m40.428s + 8.534 22