Valtteri Bottas was fastest in the first practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix after going three hundredths faster than the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. The Mercedes driver went fastest on the medium tyre, going ahead of the Red Bull.
Bottas beat his teammate, Sir Lewis Hamilton, on his first lap, before Hamilton improved by three-hundredths. The Finn then responded with an 18.5, with the fastest middle sector, while Hamilton couldn’t string his fastest sectors into a single lap. Red Bull adopted a different strategy going for his fastest lap in the middle of the session.
Hamilton having to settle for third fastest, but he was only a tenth behind Bottas underlining again how close the gap is between Mercedes. However, that didn’t pay off when the session was red flag when the session was red-flagged when Robert Kubica went off at the re-profiled La Casa.
The Alfa Romeo driver lost the rear of the car becoming beech in the gravel. The only other driver to spin was the Haas of Nikita Mazepin through the Turn Seven-Eight chicane, finishing down in twentieth, nine hundredths behind Kubica with the two nineteenth and twentieth.
McLaren’s Lando Norris continued his strong start to the session, the Englishman went fourth fastest four-tenths behind Bottas. Norris again highlighting the strong start he has made this season going half a hundredth faster than the Ferrari’s of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. The Monacan going just over a tenth faster than his teammate.
Ferrari adopting a different strategy to other teams, running the medium tyres after the early work on the hards, before Sainz improved.
Pierre Gasly went seven fastest half a second off the pace of Bottas, the Alpha Tauri driver being best of the midfield. It was a strong morning for Sebastian Vettel, the Aston Martin driver eighth fastest a tenth faster than the Red Bull of Sergio Perez and Vettel’s teammate Lance Stroll tenth.
However, Vettel lost a bit of his front wing over the kerbs on his first lap on the soft tyres midway through the session. Perez meanwhile was unable to improve following the red flag, eight tenths behind Bottas and teammate Verstappen. The Mexican appearing to struggle to find pace and clean air to put in a lap.
Lance Stroll was tenth, the second Aston Martin nine-tenths off the pace but was over a tenth faster than the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda. Esteban Ocon was twelfth fastest just over a hundredth faster than Antonio Giovinazzi, with the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo thirteenth.
Fernando Alonso was fifteenth the Alpine driver not matching his performance in Portimao. He was just over three and a half tenths behind his teammate Ocon, but the two times champion had a different strategy, using the soft tyre when the track was ‘green’ and slippery early in the session and then switching to the hard for the rest of the hour.
It was a far busier hour than normal, this was because of the lack of testing in February after it was moved to Sakhir in Bahrain, as well as the new La Casa, Turn Eleven complex, with has been replaced by a more flowing left-hander taken at higher speed, with gravel now on the outside of the corner.
Alfa Romeo reserve driver Kubica, in his first P1 outing of the year, was the first to fall foul of the new corner with the experienced Pole spinning off and beaching his Alfa Romeo inside the session’s final 20 minutes.