Mercedes F1 team dominates practice for Spanish Grand Prix amid tricky winds
The new-look Formula 1 cars were an intriguing sight on the opening day of action in the Spanish Grand Prix but the novelty swiftly wore off for F...
The new-look Formula 1 cars were an intriguing sight on the opening day of action in the Spanish Grand Prix but the novelty swiftly wore off for Ferrari as the two Mercedes locked out the top of the table in Free Practice 2.
But the margins were tighter than expected after Mercedes unveiled its dramatic looking revised car, with a heavily revised Red Bull also only a few tenths behind and closer to the pace than at any time this season, on a gusty day where conditions were not easy.
The Mercedes is a highly curated aerodynamic treatment, while the Red Bull is more subtle and trimmed for aero efficiency. Ferrari is sticking with its philosophy, content with the performance of its car and the way it uses the Pirelli 2017 tyres.
With an opening 30 minute stint on mediums it was Russian race-winner Valtteri Bottas to the top of the charts for FP2, his time of 1m23.062s more than half a second quicker than Lewis Hamilton's, but on soft tyres it was a different story.
The majority of the field was using the soft compound with 40 minutes remaining of the second practice session and Hamilton set the fastest lap with 1m20.802s. Bottas was behind by 0.090s and it looked to be another practice one-two for the Mercedes as Sebastian Vettel was 0.418s behind in fourth, his team-mate a tenth quicker.
Hamilton also topped FP1, a fastest time of 1m21.521s beating Bottas' attempt by 0.029s.
The race is expected to be a one-stop affair as teams try to use the softs for as long as possible and switch to mediums on the second stint. A Safety Car would encourage teams to get off the mediums as quickly as possible and do as much of the race on softs as possible.
Ferrari had a rare spell of uncertainty early in the second session as Vettel squirrelled about due to high tailwinds at Catalunya. Kimi Raikkonen had some engine overheating issues but the the problems dissipated quickly for both.
The winds also caught out Max Verstappen, whose Red Bull careered through the gravel at Turn 9 causing quite a bit of damage, after Haas' Kevin Magnussen complained about gusts unsettling the rear of his car at Turn 10.
Magnussen triggered a Virtual Safety Car to finish FP1 having locked up at Turn 4, complaining, "there's absolutely no grip."
All of this took place while Fernando Alonso's McLaren was being repaired in the pits, severely limiting practice time. His previous outlap, in FP1, signalled the end of another power-unit as an oil leak sent smoke billowing out and Alonso had returned to his hotel as soon as he could for a quick tennis session.
So, the top of the field was classified two-by-two in FP2 with Mercedes dominating via Hamilton's fastest lap, then the Ferraris together as Raikkonen pipped Vettel for third and the Red Bulls filling in fifth and sixth.
A red flag was flown with less than half an hour left as Carlos Sainz Jr's Toro Rosso jettisoned some carbon fibre from its floor, the clean-up taking a few minutes.
Sainz ended up 10th on his home track where his highest race finish of sixth was earned in 2016, but team-mate Daniil Kvyat, whose first race for Toro Rosso after the demotion from Red Bull was here last season, struggled in 18th.
Nico Hulkenberg again impressed, putting his Renault in seventh with a time of 1m21.687s, just a tenth slower than Daniel Ricciardo. Jolyon Palmer, his team-mate, managed to forget his woes from the Russian Grand Prix and follow Hulkenberg, albeit only 0.023s quicker than ninth-place Brazilian Felipe Massa.
Hulkenberg's former team Force India struggled, as Sergio Perez could only manage 14th. "The front is not working at all. The balance is very bad," he replied back to the garage when asked about the balance.
Massa's counterpart Lance Stroll was hesitant throughout after having slid wide onto the grass on his first soft-compound lap. He sat towards the foot of the table with a time of 1m23.221s.
Stroll will be relieved to see all eyes on Alonso who was at the very bottom of the table on his home track after those FP1 woes - Indianapolis beckons for the Spaniard.
Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catalunya, Free Practice 2 times:
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1m21.438s||0.636s||29|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1m21.585s||0.783s||35|
|10||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1m22.265s||1.463s||34|
|12||Esteban Ocon||Force India||1m22.520s||1.718s||37|
|14||Sergio Perez||Force India||1m22.722s||1.920s||32|
|18||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1m23.236s||2.434s||27|
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