Valtteri Bottas narrowly edged teammate Lewis Hamilton at the top of the FP1 time sheet at the Spanish Grand Prix after another dominant morning for Mercedes. The Finn, on pole but third at the flag at last weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, was 0.039s quicker than the Briton.
Although it was a typically strong showing for the reigning constructors champion, the team’s focus during practice is on ensuring it understands the critical tire problems that cost it victory last weekend.
Extended running on the soft tire in the final part of the session suggested the team still has a way to go, with Hamilton’s left-front tire showing signs of blistering again. Bottas arguably had things worse, striking a bird that just missed his helmet.
The man who beat the German marque at Silverstone, Max Verstappen, was third fastest but 0.939s off the pace. He was almost a second quicker than Red Bull Racing teammate Alex Albon. The Thai driver lost part of his session to communication failure between car and pit wall, but he made it out back out in the final 15 minutes without issue.
Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel followed for Ferrari, both 1.1s off the pace. The team undertook some correlation work in the first 20 minutes of the morning, with Leclerc’s SF1000 sporting aero rakes behind both rear tires as the struggling Italian team seeks to understand its lack of competitiveness.
Vettel was also evaluating a new chassis, fitted after the team found a small fault in the tub he raced to two disappointing results at Silverstone over the past two weekends.
Romain Grosjean was sixth quickest, the Frenchman maximizing his Haas team’s typical strengths at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 1.5s off the pace. Teammate Kevin Magnussen, his car freshly rebuilt in a vain search for a problem behind his poor form last weekend, was 0.3s further back in ninth.
Sergio Perez, returning from two races in isolation with COVID-19, returned to his Racing Point cockpit fresh from a negative test for the virus during the week. Despite concerns about his race fitness after so long confined to an apartment in the UK, the Mexican showed no signs of fatigue on his way to seventh.
His teammate, Lance Stroll, completed the top 10, the Canadian 0.2s behind Perez and 1.8s off the pace.
Carlos Sainz was 11th in a new chassis, complete with fresh cooling system, to try to address the overheating problems that left him off the pace at Silverstone last weekend, a potentially critical upgrade ahead of a warm weekend, with track temperatures climbing above 105 degrees F in the morning session alone.
Esteban Ocon for Renault split Sainz from McLaren teammate Lando Norris in 14th, with Alfa Romeo teammates Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen following in 15th and 16th.
Daniil Kvyat was 17th for AlphaTauri ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Renault.
Nicholas Latifi was 3.5s off the pace for Williams, just 0.3s ahead of reserve drive Roy Nissany.
Nissany, currently 18th in the Formula 2 championship with Trident Racing, kept it largely clean for first sample of an F1 car on an official weekend, losing control only once in a lock-up at the end of the back straight before rejoining the circuit without incident.
His father, Chanoch Nissany, competed in a single practice session for Minardi at the 2005 Hungarian Grand Prix.