Vitaly Petrov, R31-05 Free Practice 1:P2, 1:41.227, 20 laps

Nick Heidfeld, R31-04 Free Practice 1:P5, 1:41.580, 23 laps

Vitaly Petrov led the way for Lotus Renault GP on a cloudy first session offree practice for the European Grand Prix on the streets of Valencia.

Using chassis R31-05, Vitaly went second fastest of the day so far as he worked through the standard programme for the first running of the weekend. His time of 1m 41.227s was just over eight-tenths slower than the fastest set today, showing there is still speed to be found.

Nick, in chassis R31-04 set the fifth fastest time. Neither driver encountered any problems today and set-up work found improvements in their cars through the session.

This is the first race weekend where Pirelli’s new medium compound tyre will be faced, so a lot of time today is being spent understanding this tyre on the rapidly evolving Valencia street circuit.

Fastest today was Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber with a time of 1m 40.403s.

Tyre evaluation will be the focus of this afternoon’s 90 minute practice as the drivers the medium and soft compound Pirellis. As with other street course, the track surface is always ‘green’ – dusty, dirty and not rubbered in – for the first session because it is so rarely used but it improves markedly over the course of the weekend.

From Jean Alesi:

What are the characteristics and challenges of the Valencia Street Circuit?
We’ve all seen the race as spectators and I’ve also spoken to Vitaly (Petrov) about the challenges of driving during the race in Valencia to get his perspective. It is very difficult to overtake here, but with the double DRS zone Vitaly is confident that the problems we’ve seen in the past three years – where all the cars bunched up with nowhere to go – will no longer be an issue. So finally we might see some proper racing with overtaking. 

DRS worked well in Canada. Do you think it’ll be as well suited to Valencia?
The DRS worked very well in Canada, but not for Schumacher. He told me afterwards, though, that he was in favour of the system and so he couldn’t complain. In Valencia it won’t be as effective, because of the layout of the track. Remember what it was like in Australia – the straight wasn’t quite long enough and the last turns made it difficult for the cars to get close. I think it’s added an interesting element to the races, though, and you don’t want it to be too easy. At tracks like Monaco and Valencia where passing is tough, it should make it a bit more entertaining. 

From Valencia, the teams are not allowed to change the mapping of their engines between qualifying and the race. Is this going to erode Red Bull Racing’s advantage?
Everybody will lose, not one team more than another. All the teams have been running engine settings in qualifying which burn huge amounts of fuel and send the temperature of the exhaust to white hot levels. This, of course, would be unsustainable for a whole race. So with changes in mapping banned, the teams will have to approach qualifying in a different manner. But, as I say, everyone will be affected. Red Bull might have the best system, but I don’t really expect the grid to change because of this.

How do you expect Lotus Renault GP to perform there?
The car was very strong in Montreal so I would imagine the team will be in a position to fight well into the points.

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