Spanish GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report

The Rain In Spain

Fernando Alonso, Spanish GP 2013

Fernando Alonso, Spanish GP 2013 

 © The Cahier Archive

The rain in Spain fell mainly on the track before the first practice session of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. While it did not rain during the session itself, the track remained wet and the drivers had to run with intermediate rain tires until the final dozen minutes.

Ferrari teammates Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa posted the fastest times ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus.)

Not only was the F1 circus back home in Europe after the first four flyaway races of the season, it was also back home at the Circuit de Catalunya on the outskirts of Barcelona where much of the preseason testing takes place.

While the weather was warmer than it had been when the teams were here in February and March, it was cool and damp as free practice began.

The ambient air temperature at the start of the session was 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius), and the track temperature was 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius.)

It had rained earlier in the morning and although the rain had stopped the track was still very wet as the 90 minute session began.

Jules Bianchi was the first out on the track in his Marussia. Adrian Sutil stopped at pit exit for a practice start in his Force India and then headed out followed by Esteban Gutierrez in the Sauber and Mark Webber in the Red Bull. Everybody was on Pirelli's intermediate rain tire with the green sidewalls.

Romain Grosjean proved how slippery the surface was by having a quick spin in his Lotus.

All the teams had brought update packages for their cars to Spain, and all had intense testing programs planned with lots of laps to verify if the new parts were working as the wind tunnel had indicated. The rain certainly hampered those aero evaluation programs. The session was a dozen moments old and nobody had set a flying lap yet.

Still, some teams got on with the job as best they could. Sebastian Vettel did a lap with a complex measuring device composed of dozens of tubes attached below the rear wing on his Red Bull.

Finally, 15 minutes into the session, Nico Hulkenberg posted the first lap time of the wet session with 1:51.644 in his Sauber. He was the only car on the track at the time, and on his next lap he lowered his time to a 1:48.508. He radioed the team that there was very little grip.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso was lounging around the garage. The grandstands were virtually empty, so not that many Spanish fans were not seeing their hero out on the track.

21 minutes into the session, Hulkenberg was now in the pits and Sergio Perez did one lap with aero paint – the green fluid that shows how the air is flowing over the bodywork – applied to his in his McLaren.

And now all 22 cars were in the pits. The teams were waiting for the track to dry, and the few fans were watching an empty track.

26 minutes into the session, Vettel and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Felipe Massa (Ferrari) headed out.

30 minutes into the session, Massa became the second driver to set a time with a 1:45.023. Then Grosjean posted the second fastest time with a 1:45.974. But his next lap – 1:44.714 – put him on top of the timing screens.

39 minutes into the session, Jenson Button certainly was in no hurry to go out on the wet track. He was sitting in the McLaren hospitality center chatting with friends and family as half a dozen other drivers were out pounding around. One of them was Alonso who turned a 1:43.630 in his Ferrari to move into first place. Vettel watched it all happen on the TVs in the Red Bull garage.

43 minutes into the session, Webber was out on track with the green air flow paint on the left front wing and suspension of his Red Bull. He went second quickest with a 1:44.589. But Grosjean beat that with a 1:43.939, and then Gutierrez turned a 1:43.688 to move into second in his Sauber.

46 minutes into the session, Grosjean went quickest with a 1:43.392 only to have Jean-Eric Vergne go even faster with a 1:42.667 in his Toro Rosso. Vergne's teammate Daniel Ricciardo topped that with a 1:42.605.

50 minutes into the session, the track was drying but nowhere near enough to switch to slicks. But dry enough for the lap time to start coming down. Webber clocked a 1:41.658, a 1:40.845 and then a 1:39.980.

Button, meanwhile, climbed into his car. He had done just a single installation lap.

57 minutes into the session, Alonso moved into first with a 1:38.732. By this time more fans had showed up.

With 30 minutes remaining, the top six were Alonso, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Webber, Pastor Maldonado (Williams) and Massa. And Button finally headed out for a second lap.

With 29 minutes remaining, Ricciardo clocked the fastest time yet in the session with a 1:37.987. A couple of minutes later Alonso beat that with a 1:36.645. Nico Rosberg was second with a 1:37.303 in his Mercedes.

With 21 minutes remaining, Lewis Hamilton set a 1:36.159 in his Mercedes. Everybody was still on the intermediate tires, but the track was almost dry enough for slicks now. And, indeed, Vergne headed out on Pirelli slicks, but Massa went fastest with a 1:36.005 on the intermediates.

But Vergne then clocked a 1:34.710. Dry tires were the ticket for the final dozen minutes. But it was still slippery out there and Vergne briefly bounced off the track.

With 11 minutes remaining, Ricciardo broke into the 1:29s with a 1:29.602 set on Pirelli's hard-compound slicks.

With 8 minutes remaining, most of the drivers were out on track as the teams tried to get as much data as they could with some dry laps on the hard tires.

With 6 minutes remaining, Ricciardo improved to a 1:27.904. But Hamilton beat that with a 1:26.918. Then Alonso set a 1:26.804.

With 3 minutes remaining, Bottas clocked a 1:26.436.

Grosjean, Massa and finally Alonso, who turned a 1:25.252, took turns at the top of the timing screens in the final three minutes. The Spanish fans were pleased that their man was in top.

The top 10 were: Alonso, Massa, Vergne, Grosjean, Sutil, Hamilton, Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus), Rosberg and Paul di Resta (Force India.)

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