Spanish GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report
McLaren tops first free practice in Spain
McLaren pair Lewis Hamilton (1:21.134) and Jenson Button (1:21.672) topped the first session of free practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, ahead of Michael Schumacher's Mercedes (1:21.716).
Button has said that the Spanish race is an important marker to establish exactly where everyone is in terms of performance as the long European season begins.
"We've had some great races at the flyaways and come away with the most points, but there is no denying the Red Bull performance. I think it's fair to say though, that the weather has meant nobody really knows exactly where they are in terms of dry performance and it's quite important to find out. We have all brought updates to this race and although there are reports that this weekend could be wet too, I think everyone wants to know where they are in performance terms. It's significant to future car development and I think this is an important weekend."
Friday free practice seldom paints a true picture but Schumacher's handling of the Mercedes looked more confident and the seven times champion is optimistic for the future. He denies feeling any more pressure to perform in Spain after a disappointing race in China and with a revised chassis in Barcelona.
"Some people may want to see it like that," he said, "but it's not the way I'm thinking. It's the first time we've worked with this car and only afterwards will we understand the positives and negatives. I just feel positive that I will feel the trend of what happened up to Malaysia and not what happened in China."
Schumacher and Rosberg's cars feature a lengthened wheelbase aimed at improving the aerodynamic characteristics of the chassis and its balance, while an obvious visual difference is a revised engine cover with a thinner central area and air intakes set back on each side as the team continues work on a McLaren-style F-duct system.
The Red Bull pairing of Mark Webber (1:22.011) and Sebastian Vettel (1:22.026) finished the opening session fourth and fifth, marginally quicker than Rosberg (1:22.070).
Robert Kubica (1:22.202) maintained Renault's impressive start to the season, five hundredths faster than home hero Fernando Alonso (1:22.258) with the first of the Ferraris. The Scuderia has been permitted to make engine modifications in the interests of reliability following engine failures in Malaysia and China but there is speculation that this will have cost them a few horsepower. Ferrari has also removed its controversial 'barcode' livery (see separate story).
Vitaly Petrov (1:22.397) with the second Renault and Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber (1:22.492) completed the top ten.