Sebastian Vettel posted the quickest time on the opening morning of Formula 1's second preseason test of 2012 at Barcelona.
A late surge from the reigning champion established the Red Bull RB8 as the morning pacesetter, with Force India's Nico Hulkenberg – who had been quickest for much of the morning – dropping to second.
After a slow opening hour in which track activity mirrored the frosty conditions, times steadily fell as the session wore on, with Hulkenberg the first to dip below the 1m24s bracket. The German improved that benchmark several times, eventually getting down to a 1m23.440s, which looked good enough to seal top spot at midday. However, with 15 minutes of the morning remaining, Vettel rose to a seemingly customary position at the top of the times with a 1m23.343s, less than one tenth clear of Hulkenberg.
Lewis Hamilton, who had traded fastest laps with Vettel earlier in the morning, finished third fastest. His best was less than a quarter of a second slower than Vettel.
Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo was the only other driver to break into the 1m23s, although his best time of the morning – a 1m23.618s – was set on Pirelli's soft compound. Vettel, Hulkenberg and Hamilton all set their bests on the medium option. Fernando Alonso managed 36 laps for Ferrari, ending the session fifth fastest, three quarters of a second down on Vettel.
Michael Schumacher, piloting Mercedes' W03 for the first time in testing, was just five hundredths of a second down the road in sixth. He managed 41 laps in the team's new car, which was officially unveiled this morning.
Sauber's Sergio Perez was the last driver to get within one second of Vettel, the Mexican finishing seventh fastest despite completing a relatively light 28 laps. There was no such issue for Williams, which managed 56 laps with Bruno Senna at the helm. The Brazilian wasn't able to break into the 1m25s, however, ending the morning 2.8sec down on Vettel in eighth. That still put him ahead of Lotus' Romain Grosjean and Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen, both of whom experienced severely truncated sessions.
After a fantastic opening in Jerez, Grosjean's Lotus managed just seven laps, the lowest total of any driver. His team has been forced to stop running today as it had to send its chassis back to the team's Enstone, UK, factory for checks. Kovalainen, meanwhile, managed nine before stopping sideways on the final corner, bringing out the only red flag thus far at Barcelona.
Charles Pic rounded out the running order, finishing more than 5 seconds down after completing 65 laps. HRT chose not to run at Barcelona after their 2012 car failed a crash test.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Vettel Red Bull 1m23.343s 38
2. Hulkenberg Force India 1m23.440s + 0.097 47
3. Hamilton McLaren 1m23.590s + 0.247 45
4. Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m23.618s + 0.275 45
5. Alonso Ferrari 1m24.100s + 0.757 37
6. Schumacher Mercedes 1m24.150s + 0.807 42
7. Perez Sauber 1m24.219s + 0.876 29
8. Senna Williams 1m26.188s + 2.845 56
9. Grosjean Lotus 1m26.809s + 3.466 7
10. Kovalainen Caterham 1m27.537s + 4.194 9
11. Pic Marussia 1m29.248s + 5.905 65