Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas emerged as the fastest with a 1m 18.504s in free practice, one ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. At the same time, championship leader Lewis Hamilton sits third after a stop-start session in Barcelona.
Valtteri Bottas finished top of free practice one for the third time this season after the stranded Alfa Romeo of Robert Kubica brought out the red flags midway through the one-hour-long session. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen managed to climb up to second in the dying stages of the session, relegating the other Mercedes of Hamilton to third, who was 0.123s behind his teammate.
As the teams waited for the lights to go green, Sky pundits in the studio got a brief interview from McLaren Team Principal, Andreas Seidl. When asked if the team had some new upgrades coming in, he said,
“From our side, looking ahead to this weekend, we will bring some upgrades and modifications to the car today in the morning. You can see a modified front wing and a modified floor that we will test.”
As a few of the backmarkers made their way into the track, Nikita Mazepin of Haas went off at Turn 8 when he missed the braking point coming into the corner, locked up, and went straight on into the gravel.
Almost all the cars on track were on hard tyres barring Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, who went in with the softs.
For the early parts of the session, it was Hamilton and Verstappen exchanging lap times one after the other. So, taking aside Alonso’s soft tyres, and as for the rest, Ferrari had both cars in the top 10. Both the Aston Martin drivers showed strong pace early on in the session as Sebastian Vettel sat fifth for the most part and Lando Norris hovering around the top 10.
Max Verstappen returned to the pits after damaging his floor from going hard over the kerbs. The team subsequently warned Mexican driver Sergio Pérez about keeping off the kerbs as a result. Pierre Gasly, too was on the radio complaining about not liking the setup of his car even though he was running sixth at that point.
Vettel went top with a 1m 19.234s as the clock hit the halfway mark but on the soft tyre compound, setting the benchmark for everyone to chase down. The Mercedes duo came out on track five minutes later and went one-two straight away, with Hamilton leading Bottas by just 0.030s. Gasly put in an impressive time to go third, while Vettel’s time still stood at fourth.
As the Red Bulls were nowhere to be seen, McLaren’s Lando Norris went third quickest with an impressive lap time. Daniel Ricciardo came out a few minutes later and had to abort his first lap due to heavy traffic, but his second lap could only fetch him ninth fastest, eight tenths behind his teammate. The Aussie driver is finding it difficult to adapt to his new car.
Bottas set a 1m 18.504s on the soft tyres, just one-tenth ahead of his teammate to go quickest before the red flags stopped the session briefly. Robert Kubica lost the rear of his Alfa Romeo as he carried too much speed heading into the newly modified Turn 10 and slid backward into the gravel trap.
The session resumed again, and the cars hurried back onto the track with all the cars on the soft tyre compound except the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Perez managed to slot himself into sixth but was caught out in traffic coming out of the lap. While the Ferrari’s looked good on the medium tyres popping up to fifth and sixth respectively.
Max Verstappen, in his first run on the soft tyre compound had to abort this first flying lap as he had to negotiate Mazepin and Vettel. His second lap was a bit scruffy as he lost time here and there, but eventually, slotted in between the two Mercedes drivers, just 0.033s behind Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas, too had a big moment when he nearly drove into the back of the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and had to take avoiding action, running wide onto the grass. As the checkered flag fell, Bottas was quickest from Verstappen while Hamilton rounded off the top three.
Behind this trio, Lando Norris sits in a solid fourth place, while Leclerc and Sainz will be pleased with fifth and sixth on the medium tyre compound. Gasly, Vettel, Pérez, and Lance Stroll round off an interesting top 10.