Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso posted the fastest time in Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s European Grand Prix on the Valencia Street Circuit.

In front of his home crowd the Spaniard clocked 1 minute 37.968 seconds, 0.227 seconds faster than McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and 0.297 up on world champion and championship leader Sebastian Vettel in third.

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher in a Mercedes posted the fourth fastest lap, followed by Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Jenson Button (McLaren), Mark Webber (Red Bull), Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and the Renault drivers Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov.

Webber was quickest in the morning session when team-mate Vettel was 16th.

The race in Valencia will be the first since a rule change by motorsport governing body FIA preventing teams from altering their engine mapping between qualifying and the race.

Teams had been able to run maps that focused on power and performance at the expense of fuel consumption for qualifying, and it is thought the change in regulations could be an important new factor for the remainder of the season.

Red Bull have been superior in qualifying, but their rivals have been often closer in races, and Jenson Button’s thrilling victory for McLaren in the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago showed that the championship may not be settled yet despite Vettel’s commanding lead.

Alonso said on Thursday that he did not think the change in regulations would have much affect on Saturday’s qualifying which will determine grid positions.

“I don’t think the qualifying order will change massively,” Alonso said.

“The Red Bull is superior in qualifying and the race as well. In the race we seem a little bit closer.” Vettel has won five of the seven races this season, with Red Bull starting all of them on pole position.

The 23-year-old world champion from Germany leads the standings with 161 points, 60 points ahead of Button, with Webber on 94, Hamilton on 85 and Alonso on 69.

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