Fernando Alonso delighted his home fans by posting the fastest time in second Friday practice for the European Grand Prix in Valencia.
The Spaniard made good use of a run with the softer Pirelli tires to finish in first place with a time of 1m37.968s, the Ferrari driver outpacing McLaren's Lewis Hamilton by over two tenths of a second.
World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel had to settle for third place ahead of the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher and the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa, who completed a promising day for the Maranello squad.
McLaren's Jenson Button, struggling with the rear end of his car, finished in sixth, with this morning's pace-setter Mark Webber down in seventh over half a second behind Alonso.
Massa came close to matching the pace set by Webber in first practice right at the start of the afternoon session, the Brazilian moving to the top of times with a 1m40.857s, but he was outpaced by teammate Alonso a moment later as the Spaniard posted the fastest time of the weekend up until that point – 1m40.492s.
Ferrari's dominance at the top of the times did not last long, however, as Vettel began to show his true pace following a low-key outing in FP1. At the 13-minute mark, the Red Bull driver shot to first place with a 1m40.062s, but then improved even further and got into the 1m39s on the third lap of his run.
Vettel returned to the pits after that, as teammate Webber jumped to second place, some two tenths behind the reigning World Champion. The Australian was relegated to third by Alonso, who joined Vettel into the 1m39s, but responded moments later and regained second by going 0.002sec slower than Vettel.
With 50 minutes left, Alonso looked set to move to first place, until he found a slow Narain Karthikeyan on the final corner, the Ferrari driver aborting his lap.
Nick Heidfeld was the first man to try the softer rubber with 40 minutes to go, the Renault driver making a 1.5sec improvement over his time with the medium tires, moving to first place by nearly seven tenths of a second.
Heidfeld's moment in the sun last just a couple of minutes, however, as Webber also put on a set of soft tires to post a 1m38.531s to go quickest ahead of Nico Rosberg, also on softs. Vettel was next up with the softer rubber, the World Champion going fastest by 0.266sec over Webber.
Hamilton bettered Vettel's time in his first run with softs to jump to first place, but another driver on yellow PZeros, Alonso, topping that just a moment later. The Spaniard continued to another lap and became the first driver to lap in the 1m37s to open a two-tenth gap to Hamilton and Vettel, second and third at the time.
Jaime Alguersuari was forced to sit out the session after his Toro Rosso car suffered a problem with its engine before the start.
Paul di Resta came close to following suit after Nico Hulkenberg damaged his car in the opening session. The Force India mechanics had to work frantically and di Resta finally hit the track with 10 minutes left.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m37.968s 35
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.195s + 0.227 26
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m38.265s + 0.297 31
4. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m38.315s + 0.347 30
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m38.443s + 0.475 32
6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.483s + 0.515 30
7. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m38.531s + 0.563 26
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.981s + 1.013 33
9. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m39.040s + 1.072 35
10. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m39.586s + 1.618 27
11. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m39.626s + 1.658 31
12. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m40.020s + 2.052 34
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m40.301s + 2.333 34
14. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m40.363s + 2.395 7
15. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.454s + 2.486 32
16. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.531s + 2.563 37
17. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m42.083s + 4.115 34
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m42.156s + 4.188 39
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m42.239s + 4.271 25
20. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m42.273s + 4.305 21
21. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m42.809s + 4.841 36
22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m44.460s + 6.492 29
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m46.906s + 8.938 16
All Timing Unofficial