Lewis Hamilton tops FP1 in Spain in upgraded Mercedes

Following first practice ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, Chris Soulsby looks at the session which saw Lewis Hamilton fastest for Mercedes.

Coming off a weekend that proved to be disappointing at the Russian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton returned to the track with style in first practice for the Spanish Grand Prix which will be held this weekend, topping the session in a newly upgraded Mercedes W08.

Lewis Hamilton tops FP1 in Spain in upgraded Mercedes

In order to be fastest in the session, Hamilton set a lap time of a 1:21.521, which  secured him first place in the session. However, Hamilton did not have a comfortable gap between himself and first place, with his team mate and last time’s winner, Valtteri Bottas, being only 0.029 seconds slower over the course of a lap. Due to this, both of the Mercedes are looking to be very closely matched in terms of performance and pace over the course of one lap.

Following the two Mercedes cars in third and fourth were the two Ferrari drivers of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, with Raikkonen being almost one second slower than Hamilton in the session. As Ferrari had been evenly matched with Mercedes earlier in the season, winning the races in Australia and Bahrain, it looks as if the upgrades that Mercedes have made to their cars have worked, allowing them to close in and surpass the gap between the two teams.

Next up were the two Red Bull Racing drivers of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, who, like Mercedes, also bring an upgraded car to Spain this weekend, aiming to close the gap to the current front runners. Verstappen was fifth fastest, but was still 1.185 seconds slower than the Hamilton. Ricciardo was further down in sixth, 1.5 seconds off the pace. Although Red Bull have upgraded and developed the RB13, through these times, it is clear that the team have failed to close the gap to the front of the field, however, they may have closed the gap to Ferrari, being only a couple of tenths off the Scuderia per lap.

The two-by-two format of FP1 continued, with the Haas F1 Team being the fourth fastest team of the session, with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean being seventh and eighth fastest, two seconds off the pace.

Nico Hulkenberg was next up for Renault in ninth place, getting 24 laps of running under his belt. Hulkenberg was almost 2.5 seconds slower than Hamilton and was the last driver in the session to set a lap time better than a 1:24.000. Carlos Sainz Jr followed Hulkenberg in tenth place, only 0.011 seconds behind for Toro Rosso.

The two Force India drivers of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon were the next fastest cars out on track in 11th and 12th, just over 2.5 seconds off the pace.

Stoffel Vandoorne ended the session in 13th place for McLaren, setting a 1:24.400 and completing an impressive 24 laps of running.

Felipe Massa was next up for Williams in 14th place, 3 seconds off the pace. He was closely followed by Daniil Kvyat in the second Toro Rosso, who was within one tenth of a second of the Williams driver.

The two Sauber cars were next up in 16th and 17th place, with Marcus Ericsson being 0.2 seconds ahead of his team mate, Pascal Wehrlein.

Lance Stroll was next up in the second Williams, down in 18th place, almost 4.4 seconds off the pace.

Sergey Sirotkin was slowest in the session in 19th place for Renault, competing in the session instead of Jolyon Palmer as the third driver. Sirotkin only managed ten laps.

Fernando Alonso rounded out the session for McLaren in 20th place, failing to set a single lap in the session. This happened after Alonso’s engine failed on his out lap. According to Honda, the engine was an old one, and had been used earlier in the season in Australia, China, and Baharin. After the engine failure, Alonso left the circuit and went back to his hotel, opting to play tennis as the former champion posted on social media.

Ahead of Practice Two, many questions will arise over Mercedes’ sudden gain in performance following the application of their recent upgrade package for this weekend, and if the one second gap between themselves and Ferrari is true, or if Ferrari were sandbagging in the session. Many will also watch Red Bull Racing with eager eyes, to see if their upgrades are adequate to close the gap to the front of the field.

Results from Practice 1 of Spanish Grand Prix:

  1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:21.521
  2. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 1:21.550
  3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:22.456
  4. Sebasian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:22.600
  5. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1:22.706
  6. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing, 1:23.084
  7. Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1, 1:23.670
  8. Romain Grosjean, Haas F1, 1:23:758
  9. Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, 1:23.993
  10. Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso, 1:24.004
  11. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:24.188
  12. Esteban Ocon, Force India, 1:24.324
  13. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, 1:24.400
  14. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:24.618
  15. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:24.642
  16. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:24.966
  17. Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, 1:25.182
  18. Lance Stroll, Williams, 1:25.919
  19. Sergey Sirotkin, Renault, 1:26.293
  20. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, No time

 
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