Fernando Alonso was fastest for Ferrari in the first practice session at the Nurburgring.
The British Grand Prix winner served further notice of Ferrari’s improved pace by edging the Red Bulls to fastest time by two-tenths of a second.
Lewis Hamilton led the way early on, using Pirelli’s new development soft tyre to set the quickest time.
The Red Bulls showed their hand soon after, Sebastian Vettel displacing Hamilton at the top of the times.
Meanwhile Alonso was running the standard medium tyre and lapping around a second off the pace. When he switched to the development tyres he was instantly on Vettel’s pace.
The pair traded quickest time briefly, separated by a few hundredths of a second, before Alonso went decisively faster. Mark Webber improved to second place, a little over two-tenths of a second off Alonso, with Vettel close behind.
Alonso was on course to improve later in the session before being held up by Nick Heidfeld at the chicane.
Heidfeld was testing a revised exhaust configuration on the Renault which blow gasses out of the rear of the car instead of the side. But some smoke from the back of the car was noticeable during the session.
Michael Schumacher had a few off-track moments during the session, losing the back of the car at the Dunlop hairpin and bouncing through the gravel. He at least took the opportunity to wave to the fans as he passed close by the barrier.
He had a similar problem at the first hairpin on one lap, catching a sudden slide as the car got away from him.
He was far from the only driver to run in trouble at turn one – Rubens Barrichello and both Sauber drivers did likewise.
Karun Chandhok had a problematic start to his first F1 race weekend for over a year as his wing mirror fell out on his way down to the Dunlop hairpin.
He ended up 2.4s of team mate Heikki Kovalainen’s pace, and two-tenths off fellow Indian Narain Karthikeyan, who was driving Vitantonio Liuzzi’s car for this session only.
The session ended with a dramatic moment for Sebastien Buemi who spun off the track at turn five. The Toro Rosso briefly flew the air as he bounced over two gravel traps and a tarmac access road.
That didn’t trouble Alonso who, further up the road, lowered his best time once again to leave the Red Bulls over three tenths of a second behind.
2011 German Grand Prix
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Image ?ι?® Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo