Soaring track temperatures and a better understanding of the tyre issues Brawn had suffered in the previous three races allowed Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello to shine on the dusty Valencia street track.
The newest additions to the F1 grid, Luca Badoer and Romain Grosjean © XPB
Ultimately it was the Brazilian who set the fastest time as the championship leader struggled to find a satisfactory set-up, moving from understeer to oversteer with unhappy abandon.
McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, driving a new short-wheelbase version of the improving MP4-24, pushed the Briton down to fourth.
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