Lewis Hamilton has topped both of the practice sessions at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Mercedes in form
In the first practice, both Hamilton and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas appeared evenly matched on track. The team had said they are not taking it for granted as they know Ferrari isn’t far off, however they appear to have the edge at the moment.
We know for a fact Mercedes like under performing in practice so that suggests the gap should remain. Mercedes were around a second ahead in FP1, but Ferrari did close that down to four tenths in FP2.
The FP1 times were set on the medium tyres early on in the session while FP2 both Bottas and Hamilton did their race simulations on used tyres as did the Ferrari’s. It looks the advantage is coming in the slower third sector
Hamilton says “It’s not really changed anything, the gap looks like it’s within a tenth between us and Ferrari, which is the same as the last race, we’ve both made pretty much the identical step.”
“It’s basically a token of time, you put it on the car and you get that extra tenth or two, whatever it is usually, and that’s what we’re seeing today.
Ferrari had a mixed day with reliability issues and Sebastian Vettel had that off in FP2 as well. However, Sebastian Vettel says that there is plenty to come on Saturday before qualifying.
He told ESPN “I struggled a bit with the car balance in general so conditions today seemed to be quite challenging. I think we would have loved to do a bit more running, get a bit of a better feel for the car. It was OK but as I said, we can improve.”
Vettel says that these conditions were slippery and that means it’s hard to judge who is ahead. It was a better day for Kimi Raikkonen who was third in both the sessions, but he was still slightly off the pace of the Mercedes.
The next chapter in what is beginning to turn into a very difficult season for McLaren, saw Fernando Alonso FP1 come to an end with a spectacular engine failure.
Alonso had only made it as far as the exit of turn three before his car went sideways as he locked up. You could see the images that there was fluid dripping from the bottom of the car. This is an old unit used in Melbourne and Shanghai.
Depending on which parts are damaged, he could move on to his fourth and final ICE and MGU-K. A new power unit will also result in his third internal combustion engine and MGU-H.
Alonso told Motorsport.com “We need to raise our game and hopefully finish with both cars this race and accumulate some mileage.”
“Some things that we need to put in place, starting this weekend, for the rest of the season. So hopefully this is the starting point of a new championship for us.”
Alonso will know that penalties will be coming in the future as they will be exceeding their allocation this season, a couple of times.
Throughout the day we have all had one eye on the cars and looking the most striking was the Mercedes who have a narrower front nose this looks to have brought them performance.
The cars look different, Mercedes have this scooped turning vane which allowed them to go three-tenths clear of Ferrari.
Red Bull have also brought upgrades which they say have allowed them to close the gap. But Max Verstappen was 0.636 seconds off the pacesetting Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and three-tenths slower the lead Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.
Red Bull still appear as if they are stuck in the position where they are ahead of the rest, but they don’t appear as they have narrowed the gap enough to close up to Mercedes and Ferrari. Yes, it has got closer but it doesn’t appear to be enough.
Max Verstappen said “We are still the third team but the changes are taking us in the right direction and we have found an increase in grip. We still have a lot of work to do to improve the pace of the car”
“Also the performance of the engine so we will keep pushing. There was a lot of unexpected wind out there which caused a few issues.”
The midfield pace still appears to be close with Haas leading the group in FP1 and Renault in FP2. Looking at FP2, the gap was two-thousandths of a second between Jolyon Palmer and Felipe Massa was just two-thousandths of a second over Williams’s Felipe Massa.
That group will again be close in qualifying it appears that no one has brought an upgrade allowing them to go chasing in race trim after Red Bull. But Nico Hulkenberg and Palmer only had three-tenths between them.
Jean Todt has officially confirmed he will seek a third term as the FIA President ahead of an election in December. Todt will be seeking a new four-year term.
His letter read “Today I was proud to announce to all FIA Club Presidents my decision to run for a third presidential term at the FIA. A lot of people who voted for me are pushing me to go for another mandate,” he said.
“It is very important because if I had a lot of resistance not to go for the election, my decision would be much easier, because I would then decide that I will go.”
Once again it will be a battle between Mercedes and Ferrari. However, I feel Mercedes’s dominance of the front row we have seen her in recent years is to continue. But, I believe they will need to fight for it as we saw in Sochi.
There will also be that close fight further back between the midfield teams of who can get into Q3. That will make for some tense final moments at the close of Q2.