The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas has comfortably set the early pace as practice got underway for the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona.
Lewis Hamilton narrowly edged out teammate and Russian Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas to claim a 1-2 in FP1 for the Silver Arrows, while former champions Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso both struck technical trouble.
With Pirelli’s Hard-compound tyres in use for the first time this season, Hamilton and Bottas were quickest on the durable rubber before switching the Medium rubber and extending their advantage over the rest of the pack.
Hamilton’s fastest lap of the session, a 1:21.521, put him less than three-hundredths of a second quicker than Bottas. Perhaps worryingly for Ferrari, the pairing of Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen were unable to trim the deficit.
Vettel lost time in the 90-minute session when his SF70H encountered a gearbox issue, but the German cleverly parked his car before he exited the pits to allow his mechanics to return him to the garage. The as-yet unspecified issue was quickly rectified, allowing him to return to the track before the session ended.
The Noah’s Ark theme on the timesheets continued, the Red Bull Racing duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were fifth- and sixth-quickest overall in their heavily upgraded RB13.
Behind the Red Bulls, there was a further gap to the midfield teams, which were led by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, who was trialing a new floor design on his Ferrari-powered VF-17 chassis.
The Dane wouldn’t have done his new floor much good with an off-track excursion at Turn 4. He finished ahead of teammate Romain Grosjean (not running the new floor), Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr, who rounded out the top-ten.
Sergio Pérez was eleventh-quickest in his Force India ahead of McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, whose McLaren-Honda was noticeably lacking in straight-line speed. Thirteenth-quickest was Felipe Massa in the first of the Williams Mercedes entries.
The luckless Fernando Alonso had a nightmarish start to his home race, when he slid off the track thanks to a sudden oil leak. The Spaniard’s car underwent a complete power unit change in the interests of minimising the risk that he would miss the afternoon’s practice session.
Friday’s second practice session in Barcelona will begin at 14:00 local time (GMT +2).
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team