Valtteri Bottas opened the European season with first place in the first practice session in Barcelona, comfortably leading a Mercedes 1-2 with team mate Lewis Hamilton behind. The session featured the first appearance for Robert Kubica in a Formula 1 Grand Prix session since the 2010 Abu Dhabi GP, deputizing for Sergei Sirotkin in the Williams.
Bottas’s lap of 1:18.148 was 0.8s ahead of Hamilton, both setting their quickest time on soft tyres while Vettel followed in 3rd, trailing Bottas by 0.9s on the super softs.
Max Verstappen split the Ferrari cars in 4th, just 1 tenth behind Vettel on the medium compound, while his team mate Daniel Ricciardo suffered an early end to the session, sliding off and hitting the outside barrier at Turn 4. The Australian’s lost the back of his car midway through the corner and slid off the the outside when he tried to counter the oversteer, and prompted a Virtual Safety Car.
The session proved tricky for most teams as the mix of a new track surface and a windy day in Montmelo caught out drivers. Sector 3 was one area of issue where Bottas and Vettel found their way off track early on. While Turn 4 caught out Hartley, Leclerc, and Grosjean. Kubica had a moment at the top of Turn 13 while the sister Williams of Lance Stroll slid wide and found the gravel at Turn 5, taking the Canadian out of the session and prompting second VSC.
McLaren’s significantly updated aero package seemed to work as Alonso and Vandoorne set the 6th and 9th fastest times of the session, separated by Ricciardo’s early lap and Romain Grosjean, the Frenchman still finding pace despite suffering with his car’s balance all through the session.
Pierre Gasly rounded up the top 10 on the medium tyres, 2.3 seconds off Bottas, followed by Magnussen and Charles Leclerc, who added his name to the list of drivers unhappy with the Dane’s on-track behavior. Magnussen, who was on a slow lap, seemed to impede Leclerc’s hotlap in the final chicane before moving across to block him again on the straight, with Leclerc reporting that the Haas driver “needs to understand there are other drivers out there”.
Sergio Perez set the 13th fastest time ahead of Ericsson, Sainz and then team mate Ocon, as both Force India and Renault looked off their usual pace and Sainz also complaining from balance issues. The other Renault of Nico Hulkenberg came 17th ahead of Brendon Hartley in the Toro Rosso.
Williams’s weaknesses were very much exposed on the downforce-demanding circuit as Robert Kubica came 19th fastest on his return, 3.3 seconds off the lead, while Stroll’s early exit meant he finished the session dead last.
FP2 gets underway at 15:00 local time (GMT +2)
Image via LAT Images