When you have to look all the way down to 11th place before you see Lewis Hamilton's name on a timesheet, you know that it has to be a Friday session.
Yesterday afternoon the Briton was separated from his arch-rival, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, the man who beat him to the world championship last year and the fastest in both opening practice sessions for the Spanish Grand Prix, by Nelson Piquet and Fernando Alonso in the Renaults, Kazuki Nakajima and Nico Rosberg in the Williams, Felipe Massa's Ferrari, the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and David Coulthard and even the Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella.
Indeed, the Force Indias, then the Williams and the Renaults, took their turns to set the fastest times yesterday, before Raikkonen asserted himself.
Throw in the fact that the potentially quick BMW Saubers of the early pacesetter, Robert Kubica, and Nick Heidfeld were only 12th and 13th, and you get the picture. This was a setting-up day in some camps though not in others, where a bit of grandstanding might help to scare up a little bit more financial support or appease existing sponsors.
It is one of the problems with Fridays, and yesterday half the teams did not even bother doing more than installation laps when the morning's session opened. There is much talk in Formula One of finding ways to cut spending and budget caps are being widely discussed. Cutting back further on testing might also help, especially at tracks such as the Circuit de Catalunya, which all of the teams and drivers know intimately.
Even though McLaren focused on setting up their cars for the race, the body language between Hamilton and his team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen, indicated that all was not well in the Anglo-German camp. The team had to change the gearbox on the Finn's car following a problem with the oil pump and in the afternoon he stopped early, by the side of the track, when a problem with the throttle control caused the engine safety system to activate. Hamilton said that he had problems with the set-up of his car.
"We struggled with the balance of the car throughout both sessions today," he said. "There was too much oversteer and we tried a lot of different things to improve but didn't make the progress we wanted. We will look at the information overnight and I am confident we will find the improvements that are needed. As is often the case we ran with heavy race fuel loads throughout the long runs in both sessions so the times don't really mean that much. Tomorrow is when it counts and I am looking forward to getting some more running under my belt."
The team's chief executive, Martin Whitmarsh, said: "Lewis suffered the oversteer throughout. We will look at all the data overnight to find a solution. As is normal on a Friday both drivers ran with heavy fuel loads on the long runs, but there is no doubt that our competition looks strong."
By contrast, Ferrari and BMW Sauber were happy.
"I am pleased," Raikkonen said. "We did the work we needed to do and had no problem, this being probably the most positive thing. The balance of the car is good, even if there is always room to improve and its handling was also good on both types of tyre. But I think we can expect a very close fight tomorrow."
Kubica said: "It was very important for me to do a lot of laps. I did not have the chance to prepare for this GP during last week's test as I worked with the 2009 tyres then. However, during today's programme we did a lot of set up changes and evaluated the tyres. We now have to look at the data and will prepare for tomorrow."
The FIA president, Max Mosley, flew home yesterday from Jordan, where he had attended the first Arab world rally event since Morocco in 1976. As further evidence of the intensive campaign to rehabilitate him in the eyes of the world after tabloid revelations about his private life, it was announced that he will attend the formula one race in Monte Carlo in May.
"I will be going to the Monaco Grand Prix. I live there," he told autosport.com. "I only went to one complete Formula One race last year. That was Monaco, and I was at the complete event because I live there. I was only in Spa [last year] because of the McLaren [spying] business. I never had any intentions of going to Barcelona, because I had nothing to do there."
Mosley denied that his appearance in Jordan had anything to do with avoiding Formula One, saying the Middle Eastern country's first World Rally Championship event required his presence.
"I came to Jordan because of the political importance of this event – that's why I went to Rally Ireland last year and that's why I go to events. I don't know when I will next go to a WRC event."
Citroë*Sport's team principal, Olivier Quesnel, summarised feelings in Jordan when he said: "We are really anxious about what happened. But, what can I say? He is the president of the FIA, so if he comes, we are going to say hello. We understand that it is his private life, but the problem is that everybody knows what is in his private life."
Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona) free practice times, first session: 1 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1 min 20.649sec; 2 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:20.699; 3 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.192; 4 R Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:21.568; 5 H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.758; 6 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:21.933; 7 N Piquet (Br) Renault 1:21.936; 8 D Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Renault 1:22.118; 9 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:22.278; 10 J Button (GB) Honda 1:22.632; 11 T Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:23.002; 12 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota 1:23.003; 13 M Webber (Aus) RedBull-Renault 1:23.015; 14 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:23.141; 15 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota 1:23.153; 16 A Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari 1:23.156; 17 G Fisichella (It) Force India-Ferrari 1:23.196; 18 R Barrichello (Br) Honda 1:23.353; 19 S Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso- Ferrari 1:23.952; 20 S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:24.082; 21 T Sato (Japan) Super Aguri-Honda 1:24.278; 22 A Davidson (GB) Super Aguri-Honda 1:25.068.
Second session: 1 Raikkonen 1 min 21.935sec; 2 Piquet 1:22.019; 3 Alonso 1:22.032; 4 K Nakajima 1:22.172; 5 F Massa 1:22.229; 6 M Webber 1:22.238; 7 N Rosberg 1:22.266; 8 D Coulthard 1:22.289; 9 G Fisichella 1:22.383; 10 A Sutil 1:22.548; 11 L Hamilton 1:22.685; 12 R Kubica 1:22.788; 13 N Heidfeld 1:23.130; 14 J Trulli 1:23.224; 15 J Button 1:23.263; 16 H Kovalainen 1:23.264; 17 R Barrichello 1:23.415; 18 S Vettel 1:23.661; 19 S Bourdais 1:23.684; 20 T Glock 1:23.883; 21 T Sato 1:25.110; 22 A Davidson 1:25.163.