Charles Leclerc swept the first two practice sessions at the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of George Russell on another potentially promising practice day for Mercedes.
Leclerc’s soft-tire run came in at 1m19.670s, which was just 0.117s quicker than Russell’s best effort and 0.2s quicker than Lewis Hamilton. It’s the second consecutive round Mercedes has looked competitive during Friday practice, after Russell topped FP2 in Miami two weeks ago, albeit before the car mysteriously fell away from Saturday onwards.
More promising this weekend at least is that the W13 was fastest in the speed trap, the team having struggled with straight-line performance for much of the year to date. Russell also said the car felt improved compared to Miami, another sign of potential light at the end of the tunnel.
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Carlos Sainz completed the top four for Ferrari, but though leader Leclerc demonstrated the SF-75 had good single-lap pace on the soft tire, both teammates complained of poor tire life on the red-marked rubber. With the mercury rising to 87 degrees F and the track at nearly 100 degrees F, consensus was that the medium tire would be the backbone of the race.
Max Verstappen followed in fourth for Red bull Racing, the reigning champion 0.336s off the pace.
Fernando Alonso was half a second adrift at the head of the midfield for Alpine, where the single-lap speed was lacking but the race pace appeared strong after the long-run simulations.
Sergio Perez was seventh and almost a second adrift after skipping FP1 to give team development driver Juri Vips a spin.
Sebastian Vettel took his controversially upgraded Aston Martin to eighth and a second off the pace, pipping Alpine’s Esteban Ocon to the place.
Haas teammates Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen finished the hour 10th and 12th, split by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.
Lance Stroll managed 13th and half a second off teammate Vettel’s pace, with Yuki Tsunoda following in 14th.
Daniel Ricciardo was 15th on a difficult afternoon for McLaren, with teammate Lando Norris damaging his sole specification of the team’s new floor running wide off the track and restricting himself to just six laps, leaving him last in the order.
Valtteri Bottas was 16th for Alfa Romeo despite setting only three laps. The Finn, who encountered so much unreliability at this circuit during preseason testing, was forced to pull onto the grass on the inside of the first corner after “something broke” in the back of his car just 10 minutes into the hour, and he could take no further part in the session. Nonetheless, the installation lap he’d already set was fractionally faster than teammate Zhou Guanyu’s best effort, the Chinese driver resuming his seat after having yielded to development driver Robert Kubica in the first session.
Alex Albon was likewise back in the seat after Nyck de Vries sampled his Williams seat in FP1, but the Thai driver was 0.9s quicker than teammate Nicholas Latifi regardless.