Practice 2: Button outs Alonso
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: The Lotus newcomer was seventh after lunch, only 0.6sec behind leader McLaren's Jenson Button.
Author: ALAN BALDWIN
BARCELONA, Spain - McLaren's Jenson Button set the pace during the second free practice session for the 2012 Spanish F1 GP on Friday.
Nevertheless, more than half the field was covered by little more than a second.
With the front-runners all trying out new developments on a hot and sunny day, the 2009 World champion lapped the Circuit de Catalunya in 1min23.399 on Pirelli softs.
ALONSO DOWN TO 14th
The top 10 cars were all within a second; 12th-placed Mexican Sergio Perez (Sauber) was only 1.023 off Button's best.
Red Bull's double World champion and overall leader Sebastian Vettel was second in both sessions. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who gave his home fans what they wanted to see with the top time of 1min24.430 in the morning, was 14th after lunch.
His Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa was 11th.
Alonso is looking for big improvements in his car after tests in Italy last week ahead of the first European race of the 2012 F1 season. Ferrari has struggled to keep up with 2011 champion team Red Bull, McLaren or Mercedes despite Alonso's win against the odds in a rain-hit Malaysian race in March. He is now fifth overall.
So open is the championship, however, with four different winners in four races, that the Ferrari driver is still only 10 points behind Vettel.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, winner in China in April, was third-fastest in the afternoon with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton fourth. Lotus team mates Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were fifth and sixth.
Indian Narain Karthikeyan failed to set a time in his HRT after stopping on the track in the afternoon; Australian Mark Webber went through the gravel in his Red Bull and was seventh-fastest after being on pole for the previous two Spanish GPs and winning in 2010.
The day had got off to a low-key start with little track action and Alonso keeping his fans waiting for more than an hour before he set a serious time. Vettel, winner of the previous race in Bahrain, had been quickest until then.
While Ferrari assessed its upgraded cars McLaren was trying out a new raised nose after its strong start to the season tailed off. Button was fourth fastest before lunch.
Williams test driver Valtteri Bottas impressed with the fifth-best time in the morning after taking Brazilian Bruno Senna's place for the session.
French reserve Jules Bianchi took Paul di Resta's Force India for the morning while American Alexander Rossi made his Caterham debut and Spaniard Dani Clos replaced Karthikeyan.
The arrival of Clos on track will go down as a footnote in F1 history as the first time a Spanish team had run two Spanish drivers at a Spanish GP.
Rossi is the first American driver to take part in a GP weekend since Scott Speed left Toro Rosso in 2007.
Second free practice times on Friday ahead of the 2012 Spanish F1 GP at Catalunya
1 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min23.399
2 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min23.563
3 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min23.771
4 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min23.909
5 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min23.918
6 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min23.964
7 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min24.065
8 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min24.080
9 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min24.214
10 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min24.365
11 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min24.418
12 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min24.422
13 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min24.468
14 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min24.600
15 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min24.688
16 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min24.733
17 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min24.769
18 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams 1min25.047
19 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min26.296
20 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min26.740
21 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min27.314
22 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min27.664
23 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min28.235
24 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT