Mark Webber rekindled his love affair with Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on an easy morning for Red Bull ahead of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Webber so far has a remarkable record this year as he has finished fifth, fourth, third and second in the opening four races.
In a bid to complete the sequence, and emulate his victory feat of last year when Webber won from pole, the Australian at least made a strong start to the weekend in first practice.
Webber was comfortably quickest with a lap of one minute 25.142secs to finish a second faster than Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel who has dominated this season.
The reigning world champion has conjured a masterful start to the defence of his crown with three victories and a second from his 100% record of four pole starts.
Vettel, though, has never won at this track, yet is odds-on to make it four wins from five grands prix and further extend his current 34-point advantage in the championship standings.
Mercedes’ ongoing improvement seemingly continues as Nico Rosberg was third quickest, 1.237secs down, followed closely by home hero Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari.
Mexican rookie Sergio Perez was a strong fifth for Sauber, leaving the McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button trailing down in sixth and ninth places.
With a raft of updates on the cars this weekend, with the team this week confirming as many as 12 different components as they seek to close the widening gap to Red Bull, the McLaren garage was a hive of activity.
The German duo of seven-times champion Michael Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld sandwiched the Britons in their Mercedes and Renault respectively, with Williams’ Rubens Barrichello completing the top 10, albeit two seconds down.
Scotland’s Paul di Resta was replaced in the Force India for the first 90-minute practice session by Nico Hulkenberg who had the edge on team-mate Adrian Sutil, the duo down in 14th and 15th.
Remarkably, Felipe Massa found himself trailing down in 16th in his Ferrari, finishing 3.5secs shy of Webber.
At the rear of the field Hispania Racing’s Narain Karthikeyan was slowest, coming in at just under seven seconds off the pace.
The only casualty of a relatively uneventful morning was the so far hapless Williams driver Pastor Maldonado who continues to struggle in his rookie year.
Last year’s GP2 champion did nothing more than lose the rear of his car on one of the slower parts of the circuit at turn 12, and slide into the gravel, stopping just short of a barrier, finishing 13th.