Spain FP1 Recap: Alonso takes first blood at home

Fernando Alonso (1:24.430) ended the first practice session of the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix weekend, managing to make the most of a handful of Ferrari and a slow start to his session. Sebastian Vettel, Kamui Kobayashi, Jenson Button and Valtteri Bottas completed the fastest five, all covered by less than seven tenths. Though it felt rather like the first fully dry session of the season, there was little drama in this first practice session. No drivers crashed, only de la Rosa lost a bit of his car down the front straight, and HRT reserve driver Dani Clos lost power, pulling off at the pit entrance with fifteen minutest remaining. American Alexander Rossi made his F1 debut, filling in for Kovalainen at Caterham while Clos (in for Karthikeyan) did the same at HRT. Bottas (in for Senna) was again in at Williams, and Jules Bianchi taking Di Resta’s spot at Force India.

Session Start:
Kobayashi and Clos were the first men out onto the track under the sunny Spanish skies as the ninety minutes of the first practice began ticking away. Petrov and Webber, then Pic, soon followed. Quickly, more than half the field had posted an installation lap and made their way back to the garages. Nearly ten minutes into the session, only Hamilton and Rosberg were on the track. The Briton returned to the garage without a time while Vettel remained sat in his Red Bull pit without an installation lap to be seen. Five minutes later, the timing sheet remained the same: no times, only Hamilton with a S1 time, and Vettel with no laps at all. Right on time, though, Glock, de la Rosa, and Button returned to the track seconds later. Glock posted the first time (1:45.783), as Pic (1:31.011) supplanted him a lap’s time later. Other drivers slowly added sector and lap times to the timesheet as they trickled out of the garage.

1 Hour Remaining:
Vergne (1:25.364) led the lap times a half hour into the session, as Ricciardo, Kobayashi, Pic, and Glock were the only men to have set times. Hulkenberg soon slotted into fourth. The session continued to build as drivers completed a few more lap times, but it was mainly new aero bits, flow-vis paint, and facial hair updates. More and more drivers posted times as halfway approached, though neither McLaren driver, Ferrari driver, nor Vettel had yet posted a timed lap.

Kobayashi (1:24.921) led at halfway, as Schumacher, Raikkonen, Vergne, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Webber, Perez, Massa, and Ricciardo the top ten. Soon thereafter, the session erupted in a dash to the track as two thirds of the field set times and well over half of it actually went out to lap. Though many were setting laps, after a minor lap time shake up, there was far more yellow and seemingly longer runs going on in the early stages of the latter half of the session. However, Vettel’s first time put him fifth fastest, around a half second slower than Kobayashi. The next time ‘round, the German (1:24.808) set the fastest lap to that point of the session.

30 Minutes Remaining:
Vettel’s time remained fastest as a half hour remained, with Kobayashi, Bottas, Schumacher, Grosjean, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Vergne, Button, and Massa the fastest ten. Alonso was the only driver without a time but had just begun another lap he would no complete, due to traffic. Just after the half hour remaining mark, most drivers returned to the garage. Button soon moved up to third fastest while Alonso rejoined again. The Spaniard slid his time just behind Massa into eleventh, less than a tenth slower than his teammate. His next lap put Alonso (1:24.754) fastest, by a half tenth over Vettel.

Though only Button began the session with a new front wing, with twenty minutes remaining Hamilton switched to the new bits for possibly the rest of the weekend as well. Five minutes later, about half the drivers continued to circulate while the rest were in the garage and waiting for final changes before a dash to the end. A couple minutes later, Clos pulled his HRT off at the pit lane entrance, seemingly having lost power.

10 Minutes Remaining:
Alonso still led with ten minutes to go, ahead of Vettel, Kobayashi, Button, Bottas, Schumacher, Grosjean, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, and Webber the top ten. Webber was thirteenth fastest. Nearly all of the drivers were out and running in the final five minutes of the session, though all appeared to be finalizing longer, race simulation runs. In the final moments, McLaren asked Hamilton to make up the time in the middle sector, but he responded that he had massive understeer and couldn’t make up the time at all. In the end, Alonso held the fastest lap for the first practice of his home grand prix, three tenths faster than Vettel.

Final Times for FP1, 2012 Catalunya Grand Prix:

1. Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:24.430 20
2. Sebastian VettelRed Bull1:24.8080.37818
3. Kamui KobayashiSauber1:24.9120.48228
4. Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:24.9960.56624
5. Valtteri Bottas*Williams1:25.1200.69024
6. Michael SchumacherMercedes1:25.1870.75715
7. Romain GrosjeanLotus1:25.2170.78716
8. Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1:25.2520.82220
9. Kimi RaikkonenLotus1:25.2850.85529
10. Nico HulkenbergForce India1:25.3390.90924
11. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1:25.3670.93722
12. Felipe MassaFerrari1:25.4331.00321
13. Mark WebberRed Bull1:25.5391.10923
14. Nico RosbergMercedes1:25.6071.17720
15. Sergio PerezSauber1:25.9181.48819
16. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1:26.2261.79624
17. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1:26.2971.86718
18. Jules Bianchi*Force India1:26.6302.20021
19. Vitaly PetrovCaterham1:27.4753.04520
20. Timo GlockMarussia1:28.2673.83721
21. Alexander Rossi*Caterham1:28.4484.01825
22. Charles PicMarussia1:28.6334.20322
23. Pedro de la RosaHRT1:29.1074.67719
24. Dani Clos*HRT1:31.6187.18819
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