Ferrari’s hopes of a resurgence in Spain this weekend at least started off on the right foot with home hero Fernando Alonso posting the quickest time in first practice ahead of Sunday’s race.
In an underperforming car Alonso has worked wonders over the first four grands prix of the campaign, winning in Malaysia to keep him within 10 points of leader and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel.
The recent break, and in particular the three-day test last week in Mugello, afforded Ferrari the opportunity to beef up their car for the remainder of the campaign.
Notably the Maranello marque ran a new exhaust concept and rear bodywork, with the hope it will make them more competitive from this Sunday onwards.
If Ferrari can perform at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya over the next two days, the belief is they should be set fare for the remainder of the European campaign this summer.
Of course, there are also the local fans to please, and at least Alonso offered up some form with a lap of one minute 24.430secs, finishing comfortably clear of Vettel in his Red Bull.
The 24-year-old German finished 0.378secs adrift, but these are very early days in the course of the weekend as a whole, with a clearer picture available in qualifying tomorrow.
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi was third on the timesheet, nearly half a second adrift, followed by McLaren’s Jenson Button, the car running with its new higher nose as the Woking team seek their own performance boost, with Lewis Hamilton eighth, 0.822secs down.
Sandwiched in between the British duo were Williams tester Valtteri Bottas, seven-times champion Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.
Overall the top 12 were covered by a second, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber down in 13th, 1.109secs off the pace, with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg 14th a further fraction down.
F1 debutants in Alexander Rossi and Dani Clos, the reserves for Caterham and HRT respectively, were down in 21st and 24th.
Spaniard Clos finished seven seconds behind Alonso, but more importantly 2.5secs behind team-mate Pedro de la Rosa who was 23rd, proving he still has a lot to learn.