Practice One - Maldonado sets Valencia standard 22 Jun 2012
After his recent troubles, Williams Pastor Maldonado reasserted himself as Formula One racing returned to Spain by setting the fastest time in this mornings free practice session in Valencia.
Maldonado ended the hour and a half session just ahead of Red Bull team mates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber and McLarens Jenson Button, but it was close as only three-tenths of a second separated the first nine cars.
The Venezuelan lapped his Williams in 1m 40.890s compared to Vettels 1m 40.973s for Red Bull, Webbers 1m 40.984s in the sister car and Buttons 1m 40.994s for McLaren. The Briton was set to go faster still until a prolonged right-front tyre lock-up under heavy braking for Turn 12 prompted him to abandon the lap.
Behind them, Fernando Alonso was in the ballpark for Ferrari in fifth place with 1m 41.065s followed by Paul di Resta for Force India on 1m 41.105s. Then came the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg sandwiching Lewis Hamiltons McLaren with respective laps of 1m 41.117s, 1m 41.158s and 1m 41.182s.
By 2012 standards there was then a large gap to the Lotuses of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean on 1m 41.620s and 1m 41.784s, with Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez taking their Saubers round in 1m 41.838s and 1m 41.861s to complete the top 13.
Felipe Massa was 14th in the second Ferrari with 1m 42.109s, ahead of Friday drivers Jules Bianchi and Valtteri Bottas; the former lapped his Force India in 1m 42.175s to the Finns lap of 1m 42.299s for Williams.
Heikki Kovalainen used a new floor to good effect to post 1m 42.442s for Caterham, as Toro Rosso drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo completed this bracket with 1m 42.758s and 1m 42.777s apiece.
Vitaly Petrov was 20th in the second Caterham with 1m 43.209s, then Charles Pic headed Marussias efforts with 1m 44.173s ahead of HRT's Pedro de la Rosa on 1m 44.996s and their team mates Narain Karthikeyan on 1m 45.120s and a troubled Timo Glock on 1m 45.338s.
There were several minor incidents, mainly involving the run-off areas in Turns Two and 12 as the likes of Button, Hamilton, Vettel, Massa, Schumacher, Maldonado and Rosberg explored the limits.
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