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Sebastian fastest at practice

Barcelona: Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap in Spanish Grand Prix practice on Friday with Ferrari’s local favourite Fernando Alonso a close second to split the Red Bull drivers.

With sunshine replacing the morning’s drizzle, when Alonso was top of the timesheets with a largely meaningless lap of one minute 25.252 seconds on a drying track, Vettel produced a quickest time of 1:22.808.

Alonso was second, 0.017 slower, with Australian Mark Webber third with a best lap of 1:22.891.

Qualifying has been critical at the Circuit de Catalunya in the past, with 18 of 22 winners there to date starting on pole position and all but one — Michael Schumacher from third in 1996 — from the front row of the grid.

McLaren’s Jenson Button failed to set a lap time in the damp first session, with the team opting for caution in the knowledge that they have a limited number of spares for their new aerodynamic upgrade package.

The 2009 world champion was 12th after lunch with a best effort of 1:24.306 while Mexican teammate Sergio Perez lapped in 1:24.854.

Felipe Massa was just behind his teammate in 1:25.455 in a Ferrari one-two in that session and was fifth in the afternoon with Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen — a previous winner in Barcelona with McLaren and Ferrari — fourth.