Kimi Raikkonen was fastest in Friday practice for the European Grand Prix as the 20 drivers concentrated on coming to terms with the dusty, unfamiliar, concrete-lined Valencia Street Circuit.
Times tumbled as the day progressed and the track developed grip, with some unexpected faces topping the time sheets – Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the first session after Lewis Hamilton spun, while Jenson Button set the day’s third-fastest lap.
Most drivers enjoyed the challenge of a new circuit in a unique setting – but they also warned that the dusty surface made any deviation from the racing line a risky proposition.
In the first session Hamilton looked the fastest, but the Toro Rossos came out on new tyres late in the session – just in time to take advantage of the McLaren driver’s spin on what was shaping up to be his fastest lap.
After the session ended, drivers and other race personnel gathered for a minute’s silence as a mark of respect to the victims of this week’s Madrid airport crash. Prominent in the front row was David Coulthard, who in 2000 survived an aircraft crash that killed both pilots.
The second session saw Spain’s Fernando Alonso threaten to set the fastest time, he and the surprising Button outpacing Raikkonen and Felipe Massa late in the session.
But the Finn struck back with an unbeatable lap of 1m 39.477s to top the timesheets – not that he was making any predictions on the back of it.
“It is far too early to say where we are compared to the opposition,” he said. “The set-up we have found today is not bad, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.”
Button was pleased with the success of his attempts to translate his work on computer simulations of the track into real lap times: “We made a lot of changes to the car this afternoon which have proved positive and provided a great deal of useful information to study this evening.
“It was nice to do a quick lap at the end on the option tyre. Hopefully we can further improve the car overnight and be reasonably competitive for qualifying tomorrow.”
He will be uncomfortably aware that team-mate Rubens Barrichello was slowest of all 20 drivers in the second session.
Hamilton was fifth fastest and satisfied with his day’s work: “Considering the dustiness of the track, we made a very promising start on set-up this morning. We were able to go quicker on each run without changing too much and we took a very good baseline into the afternoon session.
“In P2, our adjustments were again spot-on but the sheer volume of traffic meant it was difficult to immediately confirm our final set-up changes. Nonetheless, we’re in pretty good shape and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
The Red Bulls struggled all day, with Mark Webber eventually 11th after dodging an out-of-control Nico Rosberg. David Coulthard set the 13th fastest time and said: “This morning wasn’t so good, but we worked on the set up and made some improvements for the afternoon. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.
“The track’s good. It’s a typical street circuit in that the rubbered line builds up very quickly but then off line you have much less grip than you get on a normal track, so that will make the race interesting if anyone runs wide.”
Practice two times:
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:39.477 (30 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:39.497 (39 laps)
- Jenson Button, Honda: 1.39.546 (35 laps)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:39.678 (31 laps)
- Lewis Hamnilton, McLaren: 1.39.712 (31 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:39.954 (30 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:39.967 (32 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:40.149 (35 laps)
- Nelson Piquet, Renault: 1:14.439 (32 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:40.500 (23 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red bull: 1:40.585 (24 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:40.607 (34 laps)
- David Coulthard, Red Bull: 1:40.696 (23 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:40.742 (34 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:40.877 (32 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 1:40.982 (36 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:40.999 (32 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:41.084 (35 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:41.246 (38 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 1.41.377 (31 laps)
Practice one times:
- Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso: 1:40.496 (29 laps)
- Felipe Massa, Ferrari: 1:40.654 (27 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:40.822 (14 laps)
- Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso: 1:41.099 (31 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:41.163 (23 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:41.281 (24 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:41.317 (27 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:41.329 (26 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:41.385 (31 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:41.706 (22 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Honda: 1:41.830 (27 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:41:930 (27 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:41.951 (23 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:42.036 (27 laps)
- Nelson Piquet, Renault: 1:42.107 (32 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:42.453 (23 laps)
- Jenson Button, Honda: 1:42.460 (29 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India: 1:43.075 (25 laps)
- David Coulthard, Red Bull: 1:43:312 (23 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:43.524 (5 laps)