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Sebastian Vettel tops morning session in Barcelona F1 test

Sebastian Vettel, Red BullSebastian Vettel posted the quickest time on the opening morning of Formula 1's second pre-season test of 2012 at Barcelona.

A late surge from the reigning champion established the Red Bull RB8 as the morning pace-setter, with Force India's Nico Hulkenberg - who had been quickest for much of the morning - dropping to second.

After a slow opening hour in which track activity mirrored the frosty conditions times steadily fell as the session wore on, with Hulkenberg the first to dip below the 1m24s bracket.

The German improved that benchmark several times, eventually getting down to a 1m23.440s which looked good enough to seal top spot at lunch.

Vettel however had other ideas and, with 15 minutes of the morning remaining, he rose to a seemingly customary position at the top of the timesheets with a 1m23.343s, less than one tenth clear of Hulkenberg.

Lewis Hamilton, who had traded fastest laps with Vettel earlier in the morning, finished third fastest. His best was less than a quarter of a second slower than Vettel.

Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo was the only other driver to break into the 1m23s, although his best time of the morning a 1m23.618s was set on Pirelli's soft compound. Vettel, Hulkenberg and Hamilton all set their bests on the medium option.

Fernando Alonso managed 36 laps for Ferrari, ending the session fifth fastest, three quarters of a second down on Vettel.

Michael Schumacher, piloting Mercedes' W03 for the first time in testing, was just five hundredths of a second down the road in sixth. He managed 41 laps in the team's new car, which was officially unveiled this morning.

Sauber's Sergio Perez was the last driver to get within one second of Vettel, the Mexican finishing seventh fastest despite completing a relatively light 28 laps.

There was no such issue for Williams, which managed 56 laps with Bruno Senna at the helm. The Brazilian wasn't able to break into the 1m25s however, ending the morning 2.8s down on Vettel in eighth.

That still put him ahead of Lotus's Romain Grosjean and Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen, both of whom experienced severely truncated sessions.

After a fantastic opening in Jerez, Grosjean's Lotus managed just seven laps, the lowest total of any driver. His team has been forced to stop running today as it had to send its chassis back to Enstone for checks.

Kovalainen meanwhile managed nine before stopping sideways on the final corner, bringing out the only red flag thus far at Barcelona. He has thus far been unable to get going.

Charles Pic rounded out the running order, finishing more than 5s down after completing 65 laps. HRT chose not to run at Barcelona after their 2012 car failed a crash test.

Morning times:

Pos  Driver         Team            Time                Laps
 1.  Vettel         Red Bull        1m23.343s            38
 2.  Hulkenberg     Force India     1m23.440s  + 0.097   47
 3.  Hamilton       McLaren         1m23.590s  + 0.247   45
 4.  Ricciardo      Toro Rosso      1m23.618s  + 0.275   45
 5.  Alonso         Ferrari         1m24.100s  + 0.757   37
 6.  Schumacher     Mercedes        1m24.150s  + 0.807   42
 7.  Perez          Sauber          1m24.219s  + 0.876   29
 8.  Senna          Williams        1m26.188s  + 2.845   56
 9.  Grosjean       Lotus           1m26.809s  + 3.466    7
10.  Kovalainen     Caterham        1m27.537s  + 4.194    9
11.  Pic            Marussia        1m29.248s  + 5.905   65
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