F1 Barcelona; Prac 1 & 2: Hamilton and Vettel Fastest, but Who Did the Updates Help?

What Happens When Racing Returns

9:44am EST — It was a windy and chilly set of Friday practices in Barcelona, with Lewis Hamilton setting the fastest time in the first practice, and Sebastian Vettel leading a Red Bull 1-2 in the second.  Michael Schumacher’s longer chassis seemed to help him, as he was third fastest in both sessions.

Practice 1 had the aforementioned Hamilton fastest with a 1:21.134, with teammate Jenson Button .5 behind, a surprising (or not, considering his longer chassis and other updates and the vagaries of practice times) Michael Schumacher third fastest, then Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel as the top five.  Schumacher’s teammate Nico Rosberg was sixth fastest, slower than Schumacher for only the second time this season.  Christian Klein, in his practice debut for HRT as test driver, was 22nd fastest in a completely unsurprising speed for the new team.  As is usual, Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were eighth and twelfth, respectively in their barcode-less cars during a completely unsurprising practice session, except for the first blown Cosworth engine of the season, in Nico Hulkenberg’s Williams.

FP1 Times:

Driver Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton 1:21.134 21
2. Jenson Button 1:21.672 +.538 14
3. Michael Schumacher 1:21.716 +.582 12
4. Mark Webber 1:22.011 +.877 27
5. Sebastian Vettel 1:22.026 +.892 22
6. Nico Rosberg 1:22.070 +.936 19
7. Robert Kubica 1:22.202 +1.068 22
8. Fernando Alonso 1:22.258 +1.124 19
9. Vitaly Petrov 1:22.397 +1.263 23
10. Kamui Kobayashi 1:22.492 +1.358 26
11. Sebastien Buemi 1:22.588 +1.454 24
12. Felipe Massa 1:22.975 +1.841 22
13. Paul di Resta 1:23.030 +1.896 21
14. Jaime Alguersuari 1:23.110 +1.976 31
15. Vitantonio Liuzzi 1:23.284 +2.150 19
16. Rubens Barrichello 1:23.312 +2.178 22
17. Nico Hulkenberg 1:23.471 +2.337 20
18. Heikki Kovalainen 1:25.329 +4.195 17
19. Jarno Trulli 1:26.244 +5.110 20
20. Timo Glock 1:26.340 +5.206 23
21. Lucas di Grassi 1:26.694 +5.560 24
22. Christian Klien 1:27.250 +6.116 26
23. Bruno Senna 1:27.752 +6.618 27
24. Pedro de la Rosa no time 3

Practice 2 began with increased clouds, as the forecast called for possible rain both for practice and qualifying Saturday, but improved conditions for Sunday’s race.  Vettel set the fastest time so far this weekend about two thirds of the way through the session, and held position, with teammate Webber two tenths behind.  The story of the second session was the improved times for the Ferraris, who usually remain further afield during practices than the fourth and eighth fastest times set by Alonso and Massa, respectively.

Fifteen minutes into the session, Schumacher was fastest with Button, Rosberg, Kubica, and Sutil the top five, after both Renaults spent some time at the top of the timesheets.  Hulkenberg had another bad practice, as the session was red-flagged about twenty minutes in, as he ran a bit wide, got into the grass and gravel a bit, spun across the track, and hit a tire wall, damaging it enough to stop running until it could be repaired.  He was unhurt, barring his ego and the team’s practice plans.  The clock continued to run down, cutting into the teams’ time on the circuit.  After about fifteen minutes, the cars were allowed back onto the track.  Webber, Hamilton, Schumacher, Button, and Rosberg were the five fastest at the re-start, with the Ferrari’s still covered with mechanics in the garage.  According to the team, the red flag was fortuitous, since “Something to be repaired on the rear of Fernando’s car after he jumped a bit heavily on a kerb, nothing major anyway.”  The cars got out quickly, though, with “Felipe on new soft [tires], Fernando on used hard [tires].”

Halfway through the second practice session, and the Ferrari’s found some surprising (for Friday, for Ferrari) speed, with Webber, Massa, Hamilton, Schumacher, Button, and Alonso as the six fastest drivers.  Only Webber was faster than Hamilton’s first practice time.  Soon, both Webber and Schumacher were in the 1:20s, thanks to the soft tires.  The Ferraris’ faster pace could be down to their new F-duct, as it is, so far this season, unusual for either Massa or Alonso to be sixth or higher on Friday, especially since Alonso joined Webber and Schumacher in the 1:20s, third fastest and faster than his teammate, once he was on the soft tires.

The top three remained Webber, Schumacher, Alonso, but Kubica was fourth fastest, and Rosberg fifth, with just under a half hour left.  If it were like the earlier session, the times would remain nearly the same and most teams and drivers would settle into long runs.  With the red flag, it would be difficult to say if it would do so.  Interestingly enough, the McLarens and HRT were the fastest in the speed trap, not something one would expect of that particularly slow new team.  With just over twenty minutes left, Vettel made his mark on the session, jumping to the fastest position and as the first driver into the 1:19s with a 1:19.965.  Kimi Raikkonen holds the lap record from 2008 with a 1:21.670, which would be about the time set (at this point in the session) by Pedro de la Rosa in eleventh.

In the last ten minutes, there was little change, even as three quarters of the cars were on the circuit.  There was an interesting note in the American coverage, with an on-board lap with Alonso and an earlier shot of him flexing his left elbow.  During a long right-hander, he barely used his left hand on the wheel, and he reached across with his right to use the f-duct, either because of some physical problem with his left arm or because it was easier.  Hard to say, but there could be some physical issue for the Spaniard in his home race.  Or, his arm was a bit sore and he was stretching and there’s nothing wrong.  Difficult to say, for sure.  With about three minutes to go, Alguersuari rolled to a stop with what appeared to be engine issues.  The resulting local yellow did not allow for changed times and the session ticked to a stop with everyone but the previously crashed Hulkenberg lapping the track and Sebastian Vettel the fastest man on Friday.

FP2 Times:

Driver Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel 1:19.965 24
2. Mark Webber 1:20.175 +.210 35
3. Michael Schumacher 1:20.757 +.792 28
4. Fernando Alonso 1:20.819 +.854 30
5. Lewis Hamilton 1:21.191 +1.226 23
6. Robert Kubica 1:21.202 +1.237 36
7. Nico Rosberg 1:21.271 +1.306 27
8. Felipe Massa 1:21.302 +1.337 25
9. Jenson Button 1:21.364 +1.399 26
10. Adrian Sutil 1:21.518 +1.553 32
11. Pedro de la Rosa 1:21.672 +1.707 37
12. Vitantonio Liuzzi 1:21.904 +1.939 32
13. Kamui Kobayashi 1:21.931 +1.966 29
14. Sebastien Buemi 1:22.184 +2.219 37
15. Rubens Barrichello 1:22.192 +2.227 33
16. Vitaly Petrov 1:22.435 +2.470 35
17. Jaime Alguersuari 1:22.449 +2.484 34
18. Nico Hulkenberg 1:23.765 +3.800 7
19. Jarno Trulli 1:24.209 +4.244 26
20. Heikki Kovalainen 1:24.894 +4.929 22
21. Lucas di Grassi 1:25.066 +5.101 30
22. Karun Chandhok 1:25.972 +6.007 23
23. Bruno Senna 1:26.152 +6.187 25
24. Timio Glock 1:26.596 +6.631

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