Red Bull set pace during Spanish Grand Prix practice

Mark Webber led Spanish Grand Prix practice today as the dominating pace of Formula One leader Red Bull again gave it the edge over McLaren while the introduction of new tires threatened to throw up surprises.

Webber's lap time of 1 minute, 22.470 seconds was quickest at the Catalunya Circuit to edge McLaren rival Lewis Hamilton by 0.039 seconds.



Teammate Sebastian Vettel, who has won three of the season's first four races coming in, was third ahead of Jenson Button of McLaren.



Ferrari was the next closest to the front two but Fernando Alonso was more than a second slower than Webber, who won here last year.

Webber's lap time of 1 minute, 22.470 seconds in the afternoon session was quickest at the Catalunya Circuit to edge McLaren rival Lewis Hamilton by 0.039 seconds.



Teammate and championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who has won three of the season's first four races, was third ahead of Jenson Button of McLaren.



Ferrari was the next closest to the front two but Fernando Alonso was more than a second slower than Webber, who won here last year.



The winner in Barcelona has started from pole position for the past 10 years.



"Red Bull is clearly dominating this weekend and are favorites for qualifying," Alonso said.



Vettel, who trailed Webber by just under four-tenths of a second, has taken pole position in the last five races stretching back to last season and the Austrian team has started on the front row in 19 of the past 23 GPs.



"Seems to be a good circuit for me," Webber said. "I will try to keep that going and have a clean weekend and try to go one step further than the last few races and do what I did last year."



Pirelli's introduction of a new hard tire compound coupled with the aerodynamic advantage of the rear adjustable wing may throw up surprises at a race that has often been a precession with 16 of 20 winners coming from pole position.



"The hard, super-hard tire is a disaster — that wasn't nice to drive," Hamilton said. "I don't know why they brought that tire because the last one was pretty good. I'll try to do as short a stint as possible on the new tire because it's not good."



Hamilton expected to be on a three- or four-stop race strategy as he was in the preceding Turkish GP, which saw at least 80 overtaking maneuvers.



Friday's practice was the teams' second opportunity to try the new rubber after first using the tires in Turkish GP practice.



Despite the possibility of drama, the race already seemed like it's Red Bull's to lose.



"I think we're just as competitive as we have been in the past but it doesn't mean we're close to them," said Hamilton, the only other race winner this season who is 34 points behind Vettel. "Undoubtedly they are still the biggest car, still fastest."



Button was in "shock" over his car's performance.



"I just don't have the balance and I'm a long way off at the moment," said the Briton, who won here on the way to becoming 2009 champion. "I'm guessing (Red Bull) are going to have a good half-a-second on the field."



Red Bull's advantage spelled trouble for Ferrari, which also struggled with setup knowing it had to make inroads on Red Bull's dominating start.



"Terrible tires, but those are the tires we have to race," Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said. "But I was saying to our drivers and our team we have to maximize what we have and those are the tires we have here. In the race it will be very difficult, another challenge for all the drivers and the team."



Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher followed Alonso in the classification with Ferrari driver Felipe Massa eighth ahead of Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld of Renault, who was the only other driver within two seconds of Webber.

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