Bottas leads opening Spanish GP practice

Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Bottas leads opening Spanish GP practice

Formula 1

Bottas leads opening Spanish GP practice

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Valtteri Bottas opened the Spanish Grand Prix weekend with the fastest time of first practice at the modified Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The Finn’s best lap of 1m18.504s kept him ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen by just 0.033s, though the Dutchman was balked by Lance Stroll on his first flying lap on soft tires and had to make do with a second attempt. Verstappen also had a mid-session front wing change after picking up damage on the curbs through Turns 7 and 8.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton finished third and 0.123s behind his session-topping teammate, the Briton also on the soft compound.

The hour was F1’s first chance to sample of the newly reprofiled Spanish circuit, which has had modifications made to Turns 10 through 12 at the start of the third sector.

The back straight now ends in a fast, sweeping left-hander followed by a gentle left-hand bend before arcing right and rejoining the old layout at Turn 12, replacing the heavier braking zone of the previous Turn 10 hairpin and the traction-sensitive Turn 11. The changes were made to facilitate an extension of the gravel trap for safety purposes, particularly for MotoGP, which also visits the circuit.

Lando Norris was fourth for McLaren and 0.440s adrift ahead of Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, both approximately half a second off the pace but both impressively on the slower medium compound, eschewing the softs.

Pierre Gasly was seventh quickest for AlphaTauri ahead of Sebastian Vettel for Aston Martin. Vettel also suffered damage running over the cubs through Turns 7 and 8, a potentially costly mistake given the German is now equipped with the car upgrades furnished to teammate Stroll last weekend in Portugal.

Sergio Perez was ninth for Red Bull Racing and 0.845s off the pace, but the Mexican had endured traffic on his flying lap. The final runs of the session were compressed after a red flag interruption, clogging parts of the track with cars on slow laps as most of the field tried to log their final laps.

Lance Stroll completed the top 10 for Aston Martin. Yuki Tsunoda was 11th for AlphaTauri ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.

Daniel Ricciardo was 14th for McLaren, heading Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Williams drivers Nicholas Latifi and Roy Nissany — the latter standing in for George Russell — and Haas driver Mick Schumacher.

Alfa Romeo reserve driver Robert Kubica was 19th in Kimi Raikkonen’s car. The Pole made his first appearance in a time F1 session since last December but ended it prematurely, beaching himself in the gravel at Turn 10 and triggering a brief red flag three-quarters through the hour.

Nikita Mazepin was last for Haas and 3.4s off the pace. The Russian spun off the track and into the gravel just three minutes into the session, though he managed to engage reverse gear to rejoin the track and continue for the rest of the morning.

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