Jenson Button overcame understeer issues with his McLaren to post the quickest time of the day in second practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.
The McLaren driver used Pirelli's soft tires to set a best time of 1m23.399s, enough to beat Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull by 0.164sec. Nico Rosberg put Mercedes in third position, with Button's teammate Lewis Hamilton in fourth and Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen completing the top five, albeit over half a second off the pace.
Raikkonen's teammate Romain Grosjean was sixth ahead of Mark Webber in the second Red Bull, with Michael Schumacher, Kamui Kobayashi and Nico Hulkenberg completing the top 10. Morning-session pacesetter Fernando Alonso had to settle for 14th position in the Ferrari.
With the track temperatures rising to 109 degrees, Sergio Perez was the early pacesetter for Sauber with a lap of 1m25.532s, but the Mexican was demoted around eight minutes into the session, when Vettel stopped the clock at 1m25.000s. Schumacher was the first man to lap in the 1m24s in the afternoon session just moments later, the German jumping to the top with a 1m24.859s, still some four tenths of a second off Alonso's best from the morning.
The Spaniard returned to first position at the 18-minute mark with a lap that was still around three tenths off his best, but 0.12sec faster than Schumacher. Jean-Eric Vergne relegated the local hero to second three minutes later with a fastest lap just 0.006sec better than Alonso's.
A few minutes later, Vettel flew to the top of the times in his first run on Pirelli's softs, the World Champion's 1m23.563s the best time of the weekend until that point. Sauber's Kobayashi moved into second position, albeit over six tenths off Vettel's best, by also running with the softer compound. Hamilton first and Webber later also completed runs on the soft tires to move to second and third behind Vettel.
With 35 minutes gone it was Button's turn to go out with softs, and the Briton made good use of them to spring to the top of the times with a 1m23.399 despite having complained of severe understeer earlier on. McLaren continued to utilize its new, slightly raised nose (see comparison images at right, with Button's Bahrain racecar at left and his Spanish car on the right).
Alonso went out on softs with some 41 minutes to go, but the Spaniard aborted his first flying lap after a first split that was slower than his rivals. He completed the lap in the next attempt, but was only 13th quickest.
Webber was the protagonist of the first incident of the session when he went off the track at Turn 4, the Australian leaving a lot of stones on the circuit as he made his way back to the asphalt. Webber's move was mirrored by Perez later on, the Sauber driver also having a trip across the gravel at the same corner.
As teams worked on longer runs, the times at the top stayed mostly unchanged for the last 30 minutes of the session.
HRT's Narain Karthikeyan, whose car was driven by Dani Clos in the opening session, failed to set a time in the afternoon, the Indian stopping on track with a problem. He had spent nearly an hour in the garage waiting for his mechanics to solve an electrical issue.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m23.399 38
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m23.563s + 0.164 38
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m23.771s + 0.372 41
4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m23.909s + 0.510 32
5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m23.918s + 0.519 32
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m23.964s + 0.565 37
7. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m24.065s + 0.666 34
8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m24.080s + 0.681 36
9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m24.214s + 0.815 41
10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m24.365s + 0.966 22
11. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m24.418s + 1.019 35
12. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m24.422s + 1.023 32
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m24.468s + 1.069 40
14. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m24.600s + 1.201 33
15. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m24.688s + 1.289 30
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m24.733s + 1.334 34
17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m24.769s + 1.370 37
18. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m25.047s + 1.648 42
19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m26.296s + 2.897 36
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m26.740s + 3.341 35
21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m27.314s + 3.915 27
22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m27.664s + 4.265 30
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m28.235s + 4.836 26
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth no time 2
All Timing Unofficial