Webber flying high in Valencia practice

Valencia: Red Bull`s Mark Webber returned to the scene of last year`s spectacular airborne crash on Friday and set the fastest time in first practice for Sunday`s European Formula One Grand Prix.

The Australian, still without a win in seven races this season, lapped the Mediterranean street circuit in one minute 40.403 seconds.

Webber`s team mate and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel, who has won five times this year already and was triumphant in Valencia last year, was a distant 16th on the timing screens.

Russian Vitaly Petrov was an impressive second fastest for Renault, but still a hefty 0.824 seconds slower than Webber, with Ferrari`s Fernando Alonso third in front of his home fans.

Webber was lucky to walk away unscathed from last year`s crash, when his car rose almost vertically into the air after ramming into the back of Heikki Kovalainen`s Lotus before crashing upside down and rolling.

"It was a nasty one, we know that," he had said on Thursday. "The next race weekend, I did okay so I think I have done a bit of racing since then."

McLaren`s Lewis Hamilton, who has finished second in his last three visits to Valencia, was fourth with team mate Jenson Button -- second overall but 60 points behind Vettel - in seventh place.

Force India`s reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg hit the wall after 22 minutes of the session, the only real incident of an overcast and humid morning, with the team having to rebuild the car for Britain`s Paul di Resta in the afternoon.

There was also disappointment for Indian Karun Chandhok, making a Friday appearance for Team Lotus in his reserve role.

Chandhok failed to set a time after the gearbox failed to engage second gear as he was leaving the pitlane.

"I just went out of the pit lane and I had no second gear so I just cruised round. I`m not having much luck with this Friday driving," he told a channel.

"I think I`ve done two timed laps in three Friday sessions. Sadly, I think that`s the end of the session for me. I should be back in the car at Silverstone, my adopted home grand prix."

Mexican rookie Sergio Perez, who missed the last two races after his heavy crash in Monaco qualifying, took part in the entire session with no apparent trouble and was 14th fastest.

Bureau Report

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