Fernando Alonso raised the home crowd's hopes by leading the way in second practice for the European Grand Prix in Valencia.
The Spanish hero's 1m39.283sec heading into the final half hour put him on top by just 0.056sec over Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull.
It was a good session for the latter team at a track it had low expectations for. Vettel and teammate Mark Webber both had spells in front, and held on to second and third at the end, both within 0.144sec of Alonso.
Morning pacesetter Nico Rosberg – another man who topped the timing screens for a while – ended up fourth for Mercedes, followed by championship leader Lewis Hamilton the best of the McLarens.
Robert Kubica kept Renault among the frontrunners in sixth, while Felipe Massa took seventh despite missing half an hour in the middle of the session. The Brazilian spun his Ferrari out of Turn 4 and came to a halt broadside across the circuit, the anti-stall system seemingly failing to react. The session was red flagged for a while, while the stranded Ferrari was retrieved, and it was brought back to the pits in time for Massa to rejoin later on.
Adrian Sutil (Force India), Jenson Button (McLaren) and Rubens Barrichello (Williams) filled the rest of the top 10 spots, with Michael Schumacher 11th for Mercedes.
In another session filled with tire graining and run-off exploration, other drivers in trouble included Vitaly Petrov – who had a quick spin in his Renault – and Timo Glock, whose Virgin parked trackside after 14 laps.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Alonso Ferrari 1m39.283s 33
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m39.339s + 0.056s 27
3. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m39.427s + 0.144s 29
4. Rosberg Mercedes 1m39.650s + 0.367s 22
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m39.749s + 0.466s 24
6. Kubica Renault 1m39.880s + 0.597s 28
7. Massa Ferrari 1m39.947s + 0.664s 22
8. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m40.020s + 0.737s 30
9. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m40.029s + 0.746s 27
10. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m40.174s + 0.891s 33
11. Schumacher Mercedes 1m40.287s + 1.004s 24
12. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1m40.387s + 1.104s 33
13. Petrov Renault 1m40.618s + 1.335s 29
14. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.906s + 1.623s 34
15. de la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari 1m40.945s + 1.662s 30
16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.115s + 1.832s 35
17. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1m41.371s + 2.088s 30
18. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.457s + 2.174s 36
19. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1m42.467s + 3.184s 31
20. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1m42.993s + 3.710s 30
21. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m43.811s + 4.528s 14
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1m43.854s + 4.571s 27
23. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1m44.095s + 4.812s 24
24. Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1m44.566s + 5.283s 21
All timing unofficial