Free practice has kicked off at the Circuit de Catalunya under perfect blue skies, as Formula One limbers up for its second European round of the 2011 campaign.
It was a largely uneventful session – so don’t feel too bad if you missed it – with the majority of drivers completing solid running at the Spanish track. Trips in to the gravel were sparse, and when one did come it was hardly a surprise once we’d identified the culprit.
Mark Webber ended the session at the top of the pile, setting a lap over a second clear of second place man Sebastian Vettel. The world champion was typically quiet in FP1, but we can be sure that he remains the favourite for pole. It seems that it will be up to Webber to stop him.
Nico Rosberg took best of the rest. He leapfrogged Fernando Alonso for second around midway through the session and remained there until Vettel knocked him back a spot. The local hero remained fourth as he sets about celebrating his new multi-year Ferrari contract in style.
Sergio Perez was perhaps the star of the show, registering the fifth quickest time in his Sauber. The young Mexican had been quickest until the half hour mark, when Webber went fastest, but came back later in the session to end a promising morning among the big boys. Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Nick Heidfeld, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello completed the top ten.
The sole gravel action came courtesy of Pastor Maldonado. With just over half an hour remaining the Venezuelan wobbled in to the stones, keeping up his perfect record of off-track excursions during the 2011 season. He did, however, manage to return to the track later in the session.
Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg were the reserve drivers to get a piece of the action in FP1, running for Toro Rosso and Force India in place of Sebastien Buemi and Paul di Resta respectively. The Aussie ended up 12th with the German 14th.
Meanwhile Lotus elected to run their two race drivers in FP1 as they look to extract the maximum from the raft of new updates they have on the car this weekend. The British squad had hoped to gain as much as a second here, though their highest placed driver, Heikki Kovalainen, was still only 19th, unable to beat any of the ‘established’ teams that Lotus are desperate to get the better of in 2011.
Second practice kicks off at 2pm local time. Who’s brave enough to suggest that anyone but a Red Bull driver will top that?