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.
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:
Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:24.430 20 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:24.808 0.378 18 3. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:24.912 0.482 28 4. Jenson Button McLaren 1:24.996 0.566 24 5. Valtteri Bottas* Williams 1:25.120 0.690 24 6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:25.187 0.757 15 7. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:25.217 0.787 16 8. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:25.252 0.822 20 9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:25.285 0.855 29 10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:25.339 0.909 24 11. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:25.367 0.937 22 12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:25.433 1.003 21 13. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:25.539 1.109 23 14. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:25.607 1.177 20 15. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:25.918 1.488 19 16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:26.226 1.796 24 17. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:26.297 1.867 18 18. Jules Bianchi* Force India 1:26.630 2.200 21 19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:27.475 3.045 20 20. Timo Glock Marussia 1:28.267 3.837 21 21. Alexander Rossi* Caterham 1:28.448 4.018 25 22. Charles Pic Marussia 1:28.633 4.203 22 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:29.107 4.677 19 24. Dani Clos* HRT 1:31.618 7.188 19