Spanish Grand Prix: Friday Analysis

After a lengthy breather, the teams returned to track action this morning, as Formula One returned to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix. An unpredictable FP1 session was typified by an early rain shower, as Ferrari finished 1-2 as the circuit began to dry out. Fortunately, the classic Barcelona sunshine returned during FP2, and it was Sebastian Vettel who topped the timesheet. With what seems to be a Vettel, Alonso battle on the cards, we now eagerly anticipate what could be an enthralling Saturday afternoon.

FP1

As the cars headed out onto a damp circuit, cameras where prepared to take photos of all the latest upgrades as Formula One’s development war begins. Fernando Alonso made the most of the improving conditions to excite his home support with a timesheet topping time of 1:25.252. Felipe Massa completed the Ferrari domination claiming P2 behind his teammate. 
The session saw the majority of teams taking a highly cautious approach, as they tested their latest updates on track for the first time. This approach was compounded by the tricky conditions which the drivers faced early on. It was not until late in the session that they were able to make the switch to the slick tyres and consequently, the final few minutes were frantic, as times began to tumble. Fernando Alonso emerged fastest, despite his teammate Felipe Massa running all of the team’s updates including new sidepod wings, an updated front wing, as well as a new undercut sidepod structure. A surprising move from the team, who will surly fit Fernando’s car with the updates tomorrow morning. Nevertheless, their self-proclaimed number one driver, has lost a day’s experience with the latest prototype. 
Meanwhile, rivals Red Bull were languishing in 18th and 19th as the checkered flag dropped, as neither driver had completed a short run when the track was in its optimum condition. This is one example of how the FP1 timesheet is far from representative of how the pecking order currently stands.
For a large part of the session, Sebastian Vettel ran with an airflow tracking device attached to the back of the car. This was particularly interesting and we can assume that the team were experimenting with their new upgrades. It is anticipated that the RB9 features a new rear wing endplate which possibly effects the direction and application of the coanda effect. Moreover, speculation has begun regarding a possible new diffuser fitted to the RB9. Undoubtedly  Adrian Newey has been busy over the brief break.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg struggled in both FP1 and FP2 as Mercedes are struggling to adjust to their latest updates. Hamilton has commented on their aggressive approach to research and development this season and they seem to be suffering from this at the moment. Both there short run and long run pace was less than impressive and they certainly have ground to make up.
FP1 Timesheet
01 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:25.252 20 laps
02 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:25.455 +0.203 20 laps
03 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:25.667 +0.415 25 laps
04 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:26.042 +0.790 21 laps
05 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:26.212 +0.960 24 laps
06 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.374 +1.122 19 laps
07 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:6.456 +1.204 20 laps
08 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:26.614 +1.362 21 laps
09 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:26.621 +1.369 21 laps
10 Paul di Resta Force India 1:26.755 +1.503 16 laps
11 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:26.940 +1.688 26 laps
12 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:27.061 +1.809 24 laps
13 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:27.135 +1.883 6 laps
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:27.250 +1.998 26 laps
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:27.576 +2.324 24 laps
16 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:28.600 +3.348 19 laps
17 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:28.887 +3.635 14 laps
18 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:29.177 +3.925 14 laps
19 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:29.457 +4.205 11 laps
20 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:29.473 +4.221 21 laps
21 Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia 1:30.314 +5.062 12 laps
22 Jenson Button McLaren no time 6 laps     

FP2

FP2 was enticingly close at the top of the timesheet, with Sebastian Vettel narrowly edging out Fernando Alonso, who continued to impress. The gap between the top pairing was a slight 0.017s, while Mark Webber took P3. Red Bull have been stunning today, with a sublime FP2 performance which will spook their rivals ahead of what could be a competitive Qualifying session tomorrow afternoon.
While the session pointed towards Ferrari and Red Bull domination, Kimi Raikkonen managed to challenge the front four in the Lotus. The Enstone based team, who lost the influential Technical Director, James Allison, yesterday, will have hoped to see a greater gain after numerous upgrades are evident on the car. The E21 has been equipt with re-profiled sidepods, new brake ducts, a rear wing upper element and a tweaked diffuser. These updates seem to have potential, not yet unlocked by the team. 
Pirelli were again at the center of the discussion after Paul Di Resta suffered a violent delamination of the left rear on the exit of the last corner. Tyre graining will evidently be an issue during this weekend, after significant graining was experienced up and down the field today. While the circuit is famously hard on tyres considering the aggressive use of kerbs, Pirelli will certainly have questions to answer following another difficult day.
FP2 Timesheet
01 Sebastain Vettel Red Bull 1.22.812 32 laps
02 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:22.825 +0.017 35 laps
03 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:22.891 +0.083 36 laps
04 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:23.030 +0.222 32 laps
05 Felipe Mass Ferrari 1:23.110 +0.302 37 laps
06 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:23.140 +0.332 35 laps
07 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:23.398 +0.590 45 laps
08 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:23.840 +1.032 37 laps
09 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:24.058 +1.250 31 laps
10 Paul di Resta Force India 1:24.104 +1.296 25 laps
11 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:24.175 +1.367 32 laps
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:24.306 +1.498 35 laps
13 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:24.854 +2.046 31 laps
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:24.888 +2.080 38 laps
15 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:25.167 +2.359 38 laps
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:25.321 +2.513 32 laps
17 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:25.441 +2.633 37 laps
18 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:25.851 +3.043 35 laps
19 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:25.963 +3.155 30 laps
20 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:26.078 +3.270 31 laps
21 Charles Pic Caterham 1:26.930 +4.122 35 laps
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1:26.970 +4.162 25 laps        
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