F1: Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel set pace for the Spanish Grand Prix

Conditions at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya improved across the day

Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap in Spanish Grand Prix practice with Ferrari's local favourite Fernando Alonso a close second to split the Red Bull drivers.

With sunshine replacing the morning's drizzle, when Alonso was top of the timesheets with a largely meaningless lap of one minute 25.252 seconds on a drying track, Vettel produced a quickest time of 1:22.808.

Alonso was second, 0.017 slower, with Australian Mark Webber third with a best lap of 1:22.891.

Qualifying has been critical at the Circuit de Catalunya in the past, with 18 of 22 winners there to date starting on pole position and all but one - Michael Schumacher from third in 1996 - from the front row of the grid.

McLaren's Jenson Button failed to set a lap time in the damp first session, with the team opting for caution in the knowledge that they have a limited number of spares for their new aerodynamic upgrade package.

The 2009 world champion was 12th after lunch with a best effort of 1:24.306 while Mexican team mate Sergio Perez lapped in 1:24.854.

"We've got enough parts for two cars, but we're limited on spares so we'd like to avoid crashing or going into gravel," explained McLaren sporting director Sam Michael.

Plans to provide more track action in the first session by giving drivers an extra set of prototype long-lasting hard tyres were stymied by the weather, with leaden skies and drizzle replacing Friday's sunshine.

Felipe Massa was just behind his team mate in 1:25.455 in a Ferrari one-two in that session and was fifth in the afternoon with Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen - a previous winner in Barcelona with McLaren and Ferrari - fourth.

Vettel, the overall championship leader who is 10 points clear of Raikkonen after winning two of four races so far, was 19th quickest of the 22 cars in the morning after waiting until the track was drying before venturing out for a proper lap. Webber was 20th.

All teams have updates for the first race of the European season but former champions McLaren and Williams - last year's winners with Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado - have more riding on them than most after struggling in Asia and the Middle East.

Button, the 2009 world champion, has finished no higher than fifth so far this season after winning the final race of last year in Brazil with what was then deemed to be the fastest car.

McLaren, who brought out a significantly new car this season instead of the more evolutionary approach favoured by others, have been working overtime to fix the aerodynamic problems with the team using one of their two 'jokers' for the season so mechanics could break an overnight curfew.

"It looks nice. There's some really cool looking little bits on the car but I don't think it's going to be enough to really fight right at the front," said Button before practice. "I think we will see an improvement and hopefully that will help us understand the air flow of the car a little bit better."

"If we get a good correlation between this circuit and the wind tunnel, that's just as important as seeing an improved lap time this weekend."

Reuters

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week