Mark Webber

Mark Webber has clocked the fastest time at the end of Friday’s first practice session for the European Formula 1 Grand Prix at Valencia.

The Australian out-paced Renault’s Vitaly Petrov and local hero Fernando Alonso by over eight-tenths of a second in the generally incident-free opening ninety-minute session.

Sunny and warm conditions greeted the drivers when the street circuit opened for business at 9AM local time, with ambient temperatures of 25°C (77°F) drawing many visitors to the nearby beach.

Three reserve drivers made an appearance in this session, with Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso), Nico Hülkenberg (Force India) and Karun Chandhok (Team Lotus) filling in for Hulkenberg damages his suspension with this slide into the wall Sébastien Buemi, Paul di Resta and Jarno Trulli, respectively.

For Hülkenberg and Chandhok, however it would be a short-lived outing for each. Chandhok had to call his session a day after just two installation laps when his Lotus developed a gearbox problem, while Hülkenberg had several lock-ups before he slid into a wall and bent his front suspension.

In other news, tyre supplier Pirelli made the last-minute decision to change its tyre compound allocations for the weekend, deciding to bring its super-soft and soft compounds instead of the original super-soft/medium split it had telegraphed it would do beforehand. The reason for the switch – as Pirelli later explained – was to bring about a greater variance in race strategy because both tyre compounds were more closely matched.

Several teams also sported quite noticeable upgrades for this weekend’s race, with McLaren and Ferrari sporting revised front wings, for example. Despite having a problem with his DRS during the session, Lewis Hamilton finished one spot behind Fernando Alonso on the timesheets, while Felipe Massa (sixth) and Jenson Button (seventh) weren’t too far behind.

Nick Heidfeld capped off a good session for the Renault team, clocking 24 laps en route to fifth-quickest in the session.

By contrast, runaway championship leader Sebastian Vettel had a quiet session, finishing just 16th-quickest in his Red Bull.

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2011 European Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:

  Driver   Team Time Laps
1. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 1:40.403 22
2. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 0.824 20
3. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150° Italia + 0.836 22
4. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 1.107 23
5. Nick Heidfeld DEU Renault R31 + 1.177 24
6. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150° Italia + 1.355 23
7. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 1.523 14
8. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 1.552 20
9. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 1.640 22
10. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 1.813 29
11. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 1.867 26
12. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.009 27
13. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth FW33 + 2.301 23
14. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.335 20
15. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 2.438 28
16. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 + 2.538 21
17. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.798 18
18. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 3.366 7
19. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus Renault T128 + 3.733 17
20. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 4.623 17
21. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 4.818 19
22. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 5.091 24
23. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 6.523 27
24. Karun Chandhok IND Lotus Renault T128 no time 2

[Image via Formula1.com, Sutton Images]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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