The Mercedes-AMG team claimed its by now customary 1-2 position on the timesheets as practice for this weekend’s Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix got underway.
Valtteri Bottas narrowly edged teammate Lewis Hamilton to top spot, with the two W11 drivers holding a commanding advantage of nearly a second to third-placed Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing Honda.
Bottas and Hamilton took turns at the top of the timesheets in the early runs on harder tyres before switching to soft rubber in the final half-hour of the 90-minute session. Bottas then set a benchmark of 1:16.785, which Hamilton just missed out on matching to the tune of 0.039 seconds.
Quite how much longer these kind of margins will exist in practice and qualifying remains to be seen. In the lead up to FP1, the FIA wrote to all teams announcing its intent to ban the special ‘qualifying’ engine modes from the Belgian Grand Prix onwards. This is expected to have the greatest impact to the Mercedes-powered runners.
Third-placed Verstappen spent much of the session on hard tyres as the team focused on race-style, higher-fuel runs. With the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya expected to be especially hard on tyre wear given the Grand Prix taking place in the Spanish summer, it might suggest that the Red Bull Racing team may be playing the long game in a bid to repeat Verstappen’s fine win last weekend at Silverstone.
Ferrari had a much more competitive showing compared to recent form, with Charles Leclerc fourth-fastest and a seemingly much happier Sebastian Vettel hot on his heels in fifth. The German was running a new SF1000 chassis after a “small fault” was identified in the car he’d raced – uncompetitively, by his usual standards – in the first five Grands Prix.
The hitherto uncompetitive Haas Ferraris both featured in the top-ten in this session, with Romain Grosjean sixth-fastest and teammate Kevin Magnussen in ninth.
The pair was split by Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez – sidelined from the last two Grands Prix after contracting COVID-19 Coronavirus – and the second Red Bull Racing Honda of Alexander Albon. The former was the quickest driver to post his best time on the Medium Pirelli rubber, while the latter praised the handling and criticised the straight-line speed of his RB16 in equal measures.
Pérez’s teammate Lance Stroll completed the top ten in the second Racing Point Mercedes.
Neither McLaren managed to get into the top-ten, with Carlos Sainz Jr – running a new chassis – and teammate Lando Norris P11 and P13 respectively, split by the Renault of Esteban Ocon.
The AlphaTauri Hondas and Alfa Romeo pairings were next up, with the former pairing of Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat (who spent the first half of the session stuck in the garage) split by the latter’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen.
Daniel Ricciardo was surprisingly towards the tail of the field in 18th, ahead of only the two Williams’ of Nicholas Latifi and junior driver Roy Nissany who had his first FP1 outing. The Israeli Formula 2 driver, whose father Channoch Nissany made an infamous FP1 outing for Minardi at the Hungarian Grand Prix fifteen years before, acquitted himself well until a lock-up and spin at Turn 10 late in the session.
Nissany’s presence in the cockpit came at the expense of George Russell, who put himself to work in the Williams garage and even acted as the team’s lollipop man in the pits.
|FORMULA 1 ARAMCO GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2020 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 1|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||1:16.785||33|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||1:16.824||+ 0.039||29|
|3.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB16||1:17.724||+ 0.939||26|
|4.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||1:17.970||+ 1.185||27|
|5.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||1:17.981||+ 1.196||27|
|6.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-20||1:18.291||+ 1.506||29|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||1:18.471||+ 1.686||31|
|8.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB16||1:18.606||+ 1.821||27|
|9.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-20||1:18.620||+ 1.835||28|
|10.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||1:18.643||+ 1.858||31|
|11.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||1:18.733||+ 1.948||33|
|12.||Esteban Ocon||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||1:18.736||+ 1.951||31|
|13.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||1:18.744||+ 1.959||32|
|14.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||1:18.888||+ 2.103||26|
|15.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||1:18.917||+ 2.132||24|
|16.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||1:18.981||+ 2.196||24|
|17.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||1:19.145||+ 2.360||21|
|18.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||1:19.230||+ 2.445||31|
|19.||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Racing FW43||1:20.334||+ 3.549||30|
|20.||Roy Nissany||Williams Racing FW43||1:20.664||+ 3.879||25|
Image via Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team
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