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Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Friday, 7 May 2010 14:42 UK

Red Bull duo Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber set pace

Spanish Grand Prix
Venue: Barcelona Date: 7-9 May Saturday, qualifying coverage: 1245-1415 BBC One (from 1215 Red Button), Radio 5 Live, online & mobiles Sunday, race coverage: 1300 BST - BBC One, Red Button, Radio 5 live, online & mobiles
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Sebastian Vettel

Highlights - Spanish GP second practice (UK users only)

By Andrew Benson
BBC Sport at the Circuit de Catalunya

Red Bull threw down the gauntlet to their rivals by setting a scintillating pace in Friday's second practice session at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were first and second fastest, with Vettel nearly 0.8 seconds quicker than Michael Schumacher's Mercedes in third place.

Fernando Alonso was fourth quickest for Ferrari, 0.062secs behind Schumacher.

The Spaniard was followed by Robert Kubica's Renault, Lewis Hamilton's McLaren and Nico Rosberg's Mercedes.

Felipe Massa was eighth fastest, 0.483secs behind his team-mate, with Jenson Button's McLaren and Adrian Sutil's Force India rounding out the top 10.

All the teams have come to Spain, the first European race of the season, with major updates to their cars.

ANDREW BENSON'S BLOG

And while it is too soon for an accurate picture of their relative competitiveness to have emerged, Red Bull's pace is striking.

Vettel, who has been on pole position for three of the four races so far this season, was the only driver to dip below one minute 20 seconds, with a lap in 1:19.965.

He was 0.210secs quicker than Webber, the only other driver to qualify at the front of the grid.

It is notoriously difficult to predict qualifying and race form from Friday practice sessions, as teams do not reveal their fuel loads.

And with the difference between a lap on a full tank and that an empty one as much as five seconds or more, the list of fastest lap times can be misleading.

The afternoon session was stopped for a few minutes after Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg crashed at the tricky 150mph Turn Nine.

The German ran wide at the exit of the corner, one of the most demanding at the Circuit de Catalunya, and stayed on the power trying to recover instead of backing off.

The car snapped out of control and he spun several times across the track and into the barrier on the other side.

In Friday morning's first session, Hamilton led Button in a McLaren one-two.

Hamilton's fastest lap of one minute 21.134 seconds put him 0.538secs ahead of Button, who narrowly outpaced Schumacher.

Button said: "It was a tough day for us. We have a lot of data to go through, and I'm sure we can make improvements and be more competitive.

"For some reason we can't get the car working and it's not just myself it's both sides of the garage."

It was a promising day for Schumacher, driving the modified Mercedes he hopes will improve his performance after a lacklustre start to his comeback.

"It's certainly feeling a lot more of a race car in my hands than at least in China," said the veteran.

Michael Schumacher
Schumacher believes Mercedes are making progress

"Here I am feeling comfortable with the car. I have worked very well with my engineers and the improvements in the car have certainly helped.

"It's not about confidence, it's simply the car going where I want it to go. I don't have to wait so long for it to go exactly to this point.

"The clear trend is there. I have the ability to work the car more to my needs. The team has reacted very well and now we look forward to make the best out of this.

"With the car that we have right now, we certainly have the ability to work in directions that were not possible before, so I am feeling quite good."

Until Spain, Rosberg had been faster than Schumacher in all but three practice sessions this season. Here, though, Schumacher outpaced his younger compatriot by 0.4secs in the morning and 0.5secs in the afternoon.

Mercedes have a lengthened wheelbase and new engine cover, with the team hoping they will make the behaviour of the car more to Schumacher's liking, as well as generally improve its performance.

Chief operating officer Nick Fry said the team had been pleased with the results of the modified cars' first runs

Ferrari's Alonso had some wild moments out on the track but his position is higher than it has been in most Friday practice sessions this season, with his team generally choosing to do race preparation work on the first day of a race weekend.

Ferrari have introduced new front and rear wings, a new diffuser, new barge boards, their version of McLaren's 'F-duct' aerodynamic aid, which improves top speed, and engine changes aimed at improving reliability.

Alonso, who has pushed Red Bull closest in qualifying this season, said that Ferrari had modified their approach to Friday in an attempt to secure a better grid position.

"We saw in the first races maybe we didn't maximise the car's potential in qualifying so we divided the programme this afternoon, half of the session doing race simulation and preparing the car for the race and half doing close to the qualifying performance," he said.

"Hopefully we can learn some things and tonight prepare the car for the race and qualifying."

Red Bull and McLaren also have major upgrades that they expect will improve their cars' pace by 0.3secs or more.

The three new teams this year arrived in Spain hoping for a big step forward in their performance, too.

Jarno Trulli's Lotus was fastest of them on Friday, 4.244secs behind Vettel, and nearly 0.7secs quicker than team-mate Heikki Kovalainen.

Lucas di Grassi's Virgin was third of the new teams, nearly a second behind Trulli. The Brazilian does not have the big upgrade package that has been given to his team-mate Timo Glock, who was slowest of the 24 runners.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton

Highlights - Spanish GP first practice



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see also
Spanish Grand Prix practice results
24 Feb 10 |  Results
Spanish GP practice as it happened
07 May 10 |  Formula 1
Schumacher not fazed by problems
06 May 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton hails salvaged title bid
06 May 10 |  Formula 1
McLaren target front row in Spain
05 May 10 |  Formula 1
Kubica wary of rivals' upgrades
04 May 10 |  Formula 1
Volcano delay hits Virgin's plans
03 May 10 |  Formula 1


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