Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Richard Paquet
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Richard Paquet

Spanish GP: Mercedes dominate Friday practice in Catalonia

Mercedes dominated Friday practice at the Spanish Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas eight-tenths clear of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. Hamilton was 0.287 seconds faster than Bottas in the second session, although Bottas led the first practice by 0.039 seconds. Verstappen was 0.821 seconds behind in third.

Hamilton said: “It is quite tough out there. It is the hottest I have experienced in Spain – normally we come here in February and May. It’s beautiful weather but it’s a killer in the car.

“It has been a good day. The second session was better for me and the long runs we looked very close with the Red Bulls so I think it will be a close race.

“The tyres are not happy in these conditions. I didn’t see any blistering but we didn’t see any blistering last Friday either.

“It felt OK but the long run didn’t look too bad. I don’t know how much further we could go or how much further Red Bull could go compared to us and that will determine whether it’s one- or two-stop.”

Grosjean’s performance was the afternoon’s headline story

With high temperatures forecast for this weekend, tyre strategy will be vital during Sunday’s race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Mercedes technical director James Allison reassured supporters that the team had managed to get tyre temperatures under control following a fortnight of issues at Silverstone.

Daniel Ricciardo was fourth fastest for Renault, ahead of Romain Grosjean – who few expected to feature at the front of the grid this weekend. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was sixth, with Carlos Sainz seventh for McClaren. Sergio Perez, returning after a two-race absence after he contracted Covid-19, was eighth quickest, with Renault’s Esteban Ocon and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly following closely behind.

Sebastian Vettel, who had a new chassis installed in his Ferrari this weekend, was twelfth, three-tenths of a second behind Leclerc. Albon, under pressure at Red Bull after starting 2020 slowly, finished 0.8 seconds behind his teammate.

Lando Norris was 14th in the second McLaren, while George Russell was slowest, complaining of a lack of front grip in his Williams.

Given Haas’ issues in 2020, Grosjean’s performance was the afternoon’s headline story, indicating that the American team could be turning a corner ahead of the upcoming rest week. A loss of power did, however, result in Grosjean’s early withdrawal from Friday practice.

Despite Verstappen’s victory at the 70th Anniversary GP, Sunday’s race is Mercedes’ to lose.

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