Lewis Hamilton ended second practice fastest on a promising afternoon for Mercedes at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s best time of 1m16.883s was 0.287s quicker than teammate Valtteri Bottas, though both were slower than they were during morning practice owing to a rise in track temperatures.
The asphalt nudged 122 degrees F during the session, and the mercury is expected to hover there during the sunny Barcelona weekend. It’s placed the spotlight firmly on the durability of Pirelli tires, particularly on the Mercedes cars.
The German marque suffered double tire blowouts at the first race at Silverstone and severe blistering at the second last weekend, and with the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya another high-energy, downforce-heavy track, concerns abound for a repeat performance. But the W11 seemed happy enough in the warm weather, with both drivers reporting improved balance and representative long runs on the delicate soft tire producing few signs of the problems of past races.
Hamilton and Bottas subsequently split practice strategies, with the Briton trying the medium and the Finn the hard to cover its bases.
Max Verstappen was again the closest man to the leading pair, closing the gap marginally through the day to 0.821s. While there’s little sign the Dutchman will be able to compete with either Mercedes driver over a single lap, the RB16’s long-run pace — particularly on the medium tire, which is expected to be the favored race compound — looked competitive in the heat.
Nether Verstappen nor Albon — who ended the afternoon 13th — used the hard tire throughout the session, pointing to a potential strategy diversion from Mercedes on Sunday.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth and only 0.16s behind Verstappen, the Australian making good on promises that his similarly competitive form last weekend wasn’t a one-off or circuit dependent.
Romain Grosjean impressed and surprised in equal measure in fifth for Haas, though the Frenchman’s afternoon ended around 10 minutes early with a suspected power unit problem in his customer Ferrari motor. Grosjean was 1.2s off the pace, having spent most of his session on the soft tire, though his teammate, Kevin Magnussen, didn’t fare nearly as well in 16th, a further 0.6s slower.
Charles Leclerc was sixth quickest for the factory Ferrari team, just 0.014s behind Grosjean. He was 0.26s quicker than teammate Sebastian Vettel, who was 12th in the order, dimming hopes his new chassis will bring him closer to the Monegasque.
Carlos Sainz followed for McLaren to prove the effectiveness of his new chassis and cooling package combination after encountering overheating problems at Silverstone. It was enough to beat Sergio Perez’s Racing Point entry, the pair seventh and eighth.
Esteban Ocon was ninth in the second Renault, half a second slower than fourth-placed Ricciardo, with Pierre Gasly rounding out the top 10 just 0.009s behind his compatriot.
Lance Stroll was 11th for Racing Point ahead of Vettel and Albon, the latter two struggling to emulate the single-lap pace of their teammates in sixth and third respectively. Lando Norris was 14th ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Magnussen.
Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were two seconds off the pace for Alfa Romeo, while Nicholas Latifi led Williams teammate George Russell at the bottom of the time sheet. The latter had to give up his car n FP1 for reserve driver Roy Nissany.