Schumacher gets some mechanical help

Updated: May 7, 2010, 11:49 AM ET
Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain -- Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull 1-2 in Spanish Grand Prix practice on Friday as the Austrian team carried its dominant form to Europe.

Vettel set a fastest-lap time of 1 minute, 19.965 seconds to edge teammate Mark Webber by a little more than two-tenths of a second in dry but cool conditions at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Mercedes' major upgrades appeared to give Michael Schumacher a boost as the German finished third ahead of local favorite Fernando Alonso of Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top-five after having led a McLaren 1-2 finish in the morning session.

Overall F1 leader Jenson Button, who has 60 points, was ninth-fastest with a lap of 1:21.364 in his McLaren car, which is among the pack of front-runners that arrived with aerodynamic upgrades.

But Red Bull set the pace at a track where the past nine winners have come from pole position.

Red Bull has taken the pole position in each of the first four races, but Vettel has only one win in his three starts from first on the grid, mostly because of reliability problems.

A new wheelbase and air duct intake on the Mercedes appeared to spark an improvement in the German team's car.

Schumacher had good pace, while teammate Nico Rosberg was seventh behind surprise contender Robert Kubica of Renault.

Rosberg is second in the standings with 50 points while Schumacher, a six-time winner here, has had a disappointing return to F1 with only 10 points so far.

Hamilton and Alonso each has 49 points, Vettel has 45, and Felipe Massa of Ferrari -- who was seventh-fastest -- has 41, one ahead of Kubica.

Another practice for Sunday's 66-lap race is scheduled for Saturday before qualifying.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press