Sebastian Vettel lead a Ferrari one two in first practice ahead of this weekends Spanish Grand Prix. Ferrari were the only team to use the soft tyre which is around a second a lap faster than the medium tyre used by Mercedes which put Vettel and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen ahead.
However the Mercedes chosen not to use the soft tyre which means there was no direct comparison between the two teams. Nico Rosberg was third ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel’s time in the session was already seven tenths of a second quicker than last year’s Barcelona pole lap. While the lead Mercedes was half a second slower due to the team only using the slower compound of tyre. Hamilton tested out a new nose on his Mercedes.
Much of the build up to this race has been dominated by Red Bull’s decision to swap Daniil Kvyat with Max Verstappen. Verstappen’s first outing in the RB12 put him sixth just a tenth behind new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. In getting to know his new car he did make a few errors.
The 18-year old ran off the track at Turn One at the end of his opening flying lap and damaged his first set of tyres. Then reported he was “having problems accelerating” on his second run followed by a return to the pit lane so the Red Bull mechanics could investigate.
Sergio Perez also had problems early on but was able to return to the track after the team made repairs to his Force India. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was seventh fastest and team-mate Felipe Massa ninth despite two similar spins at Turn Five, ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
But it was a far different session for Alonso’s team-mate Jenson Button who reported handling issues during the session finishing nineteenth. Haas Romain Grosjean labelled his car a ‘disaster’ in low-speed corners.
Grosjean along with team mate Esteban Gutierrez did not set a time in the opening half of the session.
Esteban Ocon made his practice debut for Renault, but the 19-year-old’s was unable to set a lap time because of technical problems.