So Mclaren were playing us all for fools then? I knew it! Well maybe, perhaps in fact it was Red Bull and Ferrari playing us for fools today, either way Jenson Button finished the second session top of the sheets, a tenth and a bit ahead of Hamilton and the Mclarens were the only cars to go sub 1m26s.
Thereafter it was normal service resumed, Alonso a fraction behind Hamilton and Vettel an even smaller fraction behind him. Its always dangerous to read too much into first practice (even more so in the first race) but Ferrari may be just a little concerned with Massa's lack of pace - he was down in seventh, almost eight tenths off his team mate. Michael Schumacher will have been pleased with his performance, a couple of tenths up on Massa in sixth place. Sergio Perez obviously read my piece about being unconvinced by him and slotted his Sauber into eigth, well clear of Kobayashi. Barrichello and Rosberg rounded out the top ten.
Its difficult to say what fuel levels were being run and by whom, and also how much of the session was just about drivers feeling their way in on the new Pirellis, but Mclaren will surely be the happiest of the lot given their winter testing form. Even if the positions do end up reversed in qualifying, putting them behind Red Bull and Alonso, as I suspect they will, they can still pat themselves firmly on the back.
At the back it was as you were, HRT managed almost no on track action and will almost certainly fail to qualify, Virgin were slow, Lotus slightly less so and Force India just ahead of Maldonado in the Williams. Toro Rosso will be very pleased with their return I would imagine, Algersuari 11th and Buemi 14th, sandwiching the slightly underwhelming Renaults - Petrov impressively oupacing Heidfeld (by all of eight thousandths of a second.).
Good day for: Mclaren - winter testing troubles forgotten, for now. Schumacher - almost a second up on Rosberg. Perez - can he carry that form into qualifying? Di Resta - one session to acclimatise, beats team mate Sutil, well done.
Bad day for: HRT - no lap times for either driver, just installation laps, which I suppose is progress compared to their testing nightmare. Massa - needs to buck his ideas up quickly or the doubters will begin to circle.
Qualifying top six prediction: 1. Vettel 2. Alonso 3. Webber 4. Hamilton 5.Schumacher 6. Button.