Jenson Button (1:23.399) set the fastest lap of the Friday afternoon practice for the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, leading Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, and Kimi Raikkonen as the fastest five in that session. There were no major incidents, but multiple drivers had a minor trip through the gravel as they pressed the durability of their tyres in long race simulation runs. Mark Webber was seventh fastest, with Felipe Massa eleventh, and Fernando Alonso fourteenth fastest. Only Narain Karthikeyan did not set a time, as he rolled to a stop just a few turns into his first run after his HRT had electrical issues in FP1.
Alonso (1:24.430) was the man to beat in the first Friday session, taking point at the top of the timesheets with just under a half hour remaining in the session and holding that position though the final long race simulation runs as the session progressed. Vettel, Kobayashi, Button, and Williams reserve driver Bottas completed the top five. Meanwhile, Hamilton and Raikkonen drifted further back in eighth and ninth while Massa outpaced Webber by a tenth to take twelfth over the Australian’s thirteenth fastest lap time. There were no incidents, though de la Rosa lost a bit off his HRT without any contact at all.
Minutes passed in hot conditions before Vergne, then Ricciardo left the garage first in their Toro Rossos. They opened the floodgates, as more than half the field had joined the track five minutes into the session. Both Toro Rosso drivers set their times quickly as well, with Ricciardo (1:26.622) a half second faster than his teammate. Their times did not stand long, with Vettel (1:25.000) taking the lead just seven minutes into the session, followed by Hamilton, Perez, Kobayashi, Vergne, Ricciardo, Senna, Grosjean, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Glock, Button, Petrov, and Raikkonen the fourteen drivers with times at that time. Button moved up to sixth on his first truly fast lap, with Hulkenberg, de la Rosa, and Karthikeyan all still in the garage. Schumacher went fastest of all on his first lap, beating Vettel by a tenth and a half. Webber slotted into third on his first lap as Massa and Alonso were the only drivers on track without a time set, ten minutes into the session.
Meanwhile, Button told his engineer that he had “massive understeer everywhere,” receiving a recommendation for a pit stop. After doing so, he complained of “unbelievable understeer,” leading to another trip to the garage. Soon, Alonso (1:24.739) made his way to fastest just over fifteen minutes into the ninety minute session. Massa went fourth fastest at about the same time, less than three tenths slower than his teammate. It would last only a few minutes, as Vergne beat the Spaniard to the top by .006s on the softer tyres. Ricciardo went third fastest on his own set of soft tyres, as the Toro Rosso duo were the only ones then on the soft tyre. Vettel (1:23.563) became the next driver to move to the soft tyre, going well over a second faster that his sister team teammate. Kobayashi became the next driver to move up on the soft tyres, taking second. Meanwhile, Webber remained in the garage for a rear suspension change.
1 Hour Remaining:
A half hour into the session, Karthikeyan still had not left the garage, waiting for the necessary fixes to the car that stopped for Dani Clos in the morning session. In the midst of the switchover from hard to soft tyre runs, Vettel still led over Hamilt (by nearly a half second), Kobayashi, Maldonado, Vergne, Alonso, Ricciardo, Schumacher, Massa, Senna, Webber, and Button as the top twelve. Webber was on a quick lap and moved up to third. Around that time, Hamilton complained that “I feel that all my gears are too long,” that he loses acceleration when selecting them. Soon Button was on top, seemingly having fixed his understeer issues with three turns on the front wing, or soft tyres.
Most of the drivers were back in the garage as halfway approached. Button (1:23.399) led with the fastest lap, followed by Vettel, Hamilton, Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Perez, Maldonado, Vergne, and Alonso as the top ten. Raikkonen was nineteenth fastest. Rosberg jumped up to third on his first soft tyre run. Alonso continued to slide backwards, dropping to thirteenth, then fourteenth five minutes later. Grosjean moved in the opposite direction, gong fifth fastest. A few minutes later, Webber took a trip across the gravel and into the grass, having had a lockup moment at Turn 4. Meanwhile, Raikkonen moved up to fifth. A couple of minutes later, Karthikeyan, having made it only to Turn 3 on his first lap, pulled to the side and ended his session barely after it began.
30 Minutes Remaining:
Button still led under the local yellow’s for Karthikeyan, an hour into the session, Vettel, Rosberg, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Webber, Schumacher, Kobayashi, and Hulkenberg completed the top ten while Alonso remained fourteenth. Times did not change much in the final third of the session, as teams used up their quali simulations a bit earlier than usual and settled into yet more race simulation at the circuit they know inside and out.
10 Minutes Remaining:
In fact, the order of the top ten had not changed in the final thirty minutes of the session. There were a few offs through the gravel or onto a runoff area as the drivers pressed the usefulness of their tyres in the final minutes of the session, but Button continued to sit on the fastest lap at the end of Friday’s running. In the last thirty seconds, Senna got out onto the marbles in the middle of Turn12 and spun around to face oncoming traffic.
Final Times for FP1, 2012 Spanish Grand Prix:
Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Jenson Button McLaren 1:23.399 38 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:23.563 0.164 38 3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.771 0.372 41 4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:23.909 0.510 32 5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:23.918 0.519 32 6. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:23.964 0.565 37 7. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:24.065 0.666 34 8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:24.080 0.681 36 9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:24.214 0.815 41 10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:24.365 0.966 22 11. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.418 1.019 35 12. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:24.422 1.023 32 13. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:24.468 1.069 40 14. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:24.600 1.201 33 15. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:24.688 1.289 30 16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:24.733 1.334 34 17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:24.769 1.370 37 18. Bruno Senna Williams 1:25.047 1.648 42 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:26.296 2.897 36 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:26.740 3.341 35 21. Timo Glock Marussia 1:27.314 3.915 27 22. Charles Pic Marussia 1:27.664 4.265 30 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1:28.235 4.836 26 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT n/t n/t 2