McLaren set the benchmark in the opening practice session at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button topping the timesheets.
Although Ferrari’s Felipe Massa sat P1 early in the 90-minute session, it was the silver McLarens and the Mercedes works car of Michael Schumacher who dominated, with Hamilton enjoying a clear half-second advantage over his team-mate.
Button had been top of the times before Hamilton eased him aside, and then lost most of the final 20 minutes after running over a piece of discarded bodywork as he exited the pits. Jenson remained confined to the garage as the McLaren engineers checked his MP4-25 for damage, and only returned to the track when it was too late to improve.
Schumi, appearing more in tune with the revised Mercedes – which featured a new interpretation in the airbox area – was closest to the McLaren boys, and the only other driver to lap in the 1min 21s. The German ended the session just 0.044secs adrift of Button, and ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg for only the fourth time this season.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top five, the pair posting near-identical times as they pushed Rosberg back into sixth spot, just ahead of the closely matched Robert Kubica, Fernando Alonso and Vitaly Petrov.
Felipe Massa was 12th.