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Bird on top in first session
Sam Bird has started his season with a shot across the bows of his rivals by putting himself at the top of the timesheets in today's season opening free practice session here in Barcelona, finishing narrowly ahead of Charles Pic and Sergio Perez. The Briton claimed the top spot with a time of 1:28.511, with the top three split by just three tenths as the drivers went out in anger for the first time this year under sunny but cool conditions.

The session opened with a bang as Jules Bianchi followed the rear wing of Perez a little too closely on their warm up lap: the Mexican spun gently into the gravel but found his way back to the pits just behind his French rival, while a few turns later Jerome d'Ambrosio found the wall at turn 9, bringing his session to an early end. But back on track Bird set the early running with a lap of 1:28.511 and continued to push as Perez and Bianchi sat just below him on the screens. The Briton went even faster just before the usual rush for fresh rubber just before the halfway mark of the season, with Pic staying out a lap longer to get some clear air and his best time. And the story of the session was told: with the teams concentrating on set up ahead of this afternoon's qualifying session the timesheets saw little movement as the clock wound down to zero.

Bianchi, Oliver Turvey, Dani Clos, Davide Valsecchi, and Giacomo Ricci slotted in right behind the top three, with one second covering the first 11 drivers, the first five of whom are rookies. With track conditions cooling and qualifying just hours away, it promises to be a thrilling battle for pole this afternoon.

Barcelona Free Practice

Driver Team Time Laps
1. Sam Bird ART Grand Prix 1:28.511 16
2. Charles Pic Arden International 1:28.969 14
3. Sergio Perez Barwa Addax Team 1:28.795 15
4. Jules Bianchi ART Grand Prix 1:28.846 14
5. Oliver Turvey iSport International 1:28.915 14
6. Dani Clos Racing Engineering 1:29.078 14
7. Davide Valsecchi iSport International 1:29.104 14
8. Giacomo Ricci DPR 1:29.163 14
9. Josef Kral Super Nova Racing 1:29.321 12
10. Ho-Pin Tung DAMS 1:29.360 17
11. Christian Vietoris Racing Engineering 1:29.508 15
12. Michael Herck DPR 1:29.701 15
13. Fabio Leimer Ocean Racing Technology 1:29.760 16
14. Alberto Valerio Scuderia Coloni 1:29.764 13
15. Luiz Razia Rapax 1:29.857 11
16. Marcus Ericsson Super Nova Racing 1:29.862 16
17. Giedo van der Garde Barwa Addax Team 1:29.932 14
18. Adrian Zaugg Trident Racing 1:29.967 15
19. Pastor Maldonado Rapax 1:29.998 15
20 Johnny Cecotto Trident Racing 1:30.049 16

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