Valtteri Bottas was fastest in the first practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix, after going three hundredths faster than teammate Lewis Hamilton. Despite concerns over the heat in Barcelona going into the weekend, the German manufacturer laid down a benchmark, going nine tenths faster than the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Mercedes had been concerned about the problems they suffered in the heat on Sunday at Silverstone, they appear to have got on top of those issues and continued where they left off in testing topping the timesheets by almost a second.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was fourth a second off the pace and a hundredth faster than teammate Charles Leclerc. Leclerc’s early running looked to be focused on trying to better understand the cars understanding the aerodynamics, as he ran the new chassis for the first time.
Haas’s Romain Grosjean put in a good performance, he went sixth fastest four-tenths behind the Ferrari and out paced the Racing Point by a hundredth and a half. Sergio Perez going seventh fastest on his return to the car after testing positive for Coronavirus, the Mexican ahead of Alex Albon’s Red Bull.
There was little early running, but Verstappen set the early pace on a 19.5 before Bottas used the medium tyres to go a second fastest before Hamilton went half a second faster. Verstappen then returned to the top of the times followed by Bottas, the Dutchman then went half-second faster.
Following the mid-session lull in as the tyres used in the first half were returned, the Mercedes cars reappeared on the soft C3 tyres.
It wasn’t a smooth session for either Perez or Albon, the Mexican running slowly through the chicane and seeking clarification on the green ‘young driver’ light on the rear of George Russell’s Williams being driven by Roy Nissany.
While Albon was eighth for Red Bull a second and eight tenths off but was forced to crawl slowly back to the pits after the team feared he had a problem on his RB16.
There was an encouraging session for Haas, Kevin Magnussen was ninth ahead of Lance Stroll.
The focus of the session was likely on assessing the durability of tyres in the hot weather, after the struggles that cost Mercedes victory at Silverstone on Sunday. Pirelli has supplied the hardest of its three compounds for this weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while each tyre was one grade softer last time.
The circuit is similar to Silverstone with the medium to high-speed corners as well as high temperatures forecast its likely to be a concern. But so far there are no sign of major problems, but that could change with the long runs this afternoon.
Although Hamilton did say his front-left tyre was showing some signs of problems when he did a long run late in the session.
Carlos Sainz was eleventh just eight-hundredths off a place in the top ten, with him going a hundredth faster than teammate Lando Norris. The McLaren duo separated by the Renault of Esteban Ocon. While Pierre Gasly was fourteenth ahead of the two Alfa Romeo’s
Roy Nissany made his first outing for Williams, the Israeli was twentieth three tenths slower than teammate Nicolas Latifi. Nissany suffered a spin at Turn Twenty, completing a full 360-degree spin before carrying on.