Spanish Grand Prix Friday practice: Alonso threatens the Red Bulls

After three hours of practice for the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend, all we have learned is that the battle between Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel is as close as ever. After Alonso topped first practice, he finished second practice only 0.017 seconds behind the Red Bull.

Mark Webber wasn’t too far behind, while Mercedes appear to be dropping away from Ferrari and Red Bull slightly. McLaren brought a raft of new updates to this Grand Prix, but haven’t seen any major improvements yet.

First practice

Although Pirelli brought an extra set of experimental hard tyres for each driver to use, magnificently-timed rain ruined any hope of teams gathering data in FP1.

Intermediates were the way to go for the majority of the session, until the braver drivers tried out the slick tyres with a few minutes to go.

While Alonso led the session in the end, Jean-Eric Vergne managed third place with his final lap, gaining the rewards of being the first driver to take on the dry tyres. Jenson Button, as well as Vettel and Webber, opted not to set flying laps on the drying track, ending first practice at the foot of the timesheets.

Marussia again ran reserve driver Rodolfo Gonzalez in place of Max Chilton.

FP1 times:

Pos Driver                Team                   Time      Gap     Laps
 1. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                1:25.252          20
 2. Felipe Massa          Ferrari                1:25.455  +0.203  20
 3. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:25.667  +0.415  25
 4. Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault          1:26.042  +0.790  21
 5. Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes   1:26.212  +0.960  24
 6. Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes               1:26.374  +1.122  19
 7. Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Renault       1:26.456  +1.204  20
 8. Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault          1:26.614  +1.362  21
 9. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes               1:26.621  +1.369  21
10. Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes   1:26.755  +1.503  16
11. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:26.940  +1.688  26
12. Nico Hulkenberg       Sauber-Ferrari         1:27.061  +1.809  24
13. Sergio Perez          McLaren-Mercedes       1:27.135  +1.883   6
14. Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber-Ferrari         1:27.250  +1.998  26
15. Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault       1:27.576  +2.324  24
16. Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault       1:28.373  +3.121  14
17. Giedo van der Garde   Caterham-Renault       1:28.600  +3.348  19
18. Jules Bianchi         Marussia-Cosworth      1:28.887  +3.635  14
19. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault       1:29.457  +4.205  11
20. Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault       1:29.473  +4.221  21
21. Rodolfo Gonzalez      Marussia-Cosworth      1:30.314  +5.062  13
22. Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes       N/A                6

Second practice

After Hamilton and Rosberg briefly took top spot, it was Webber and Alonso who battled it out for the first part of the session, with Fernando eventually winning out.

Vettel then set a 1:22.808 to pip the Ferrari to the top spot, with only 0.083 seconds separating the top three drivers.

Hamilton spun at the beginning of second practice, while Paul di Resta’s Force India suffered a third Pirelli delamination in two races.

McLaren could only take 12th and 13th places, and it remains to be seen how effective their new updates will fare around the downforce-heavy Circuit de Catalunya.

FP2 times:

Pos Driver                Team                  Time      Gap     Laps
 1. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1:22.808          34
 2. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1:22.825  +0.017  35
 3. Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1:22.891  +0.083  36
 4. Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1:23.030  +0.222  32
 5. Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1:23.110  +0.302  37
 6. Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes              1:23.140  +0.332  35
 7. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1:23.398  +0.590  45
 8. Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes  1:23.840  +1.032  37
 9. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:24.058  +1.250  31
10. Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1:24.104  +1.296  25
11. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:24.175  +1.367  32
12. Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1:24.306  +1.498  35
13. Sergio Perez          McLaren-Mercedes      1:24.854  +2.046  31
14. Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Renault      1:24.888  +2.080  38
15. Nico Hulkenberg       Sauber-Ferrari        1:25.167  +2.359  38
16. Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1:25.321  +2.513  32
17. Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber-Ferrari        1:25.441  +2.633  37
18. Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1:25.851  +3.043  35
19. Giedo van der Garde   Caterham-Renault      1:25.963  +3.155  30
20. Jules Bianchi         Marussia-Cosworth     1:26.078  +3.270  31
21. Charles Pic           Caterham-Renault      1:26.930  +4.122  35
22. Max Chilton           Marussia-Cosworth     1:26.970  +4.162  25
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