Barcelona FP1: Bottas ahead with Ferrari in the hunt

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas topped the timing screens at the end of the first free practice of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, edging both Ferrari’s in the 90-minutes session which ended when Lance Stroll crashed his Racing Point in Turn 9.

It was also a morning in which Honda power did not ‘show up’ and their star driver Max Verstappen spent half the time in the Red Bull pit garage with issues.

Bottas set a best lap time of 1:17.951 which was good enough for the top time of the morning session, a tenth faster than the next best and six tenths up on his teammate Lewis Hamilton in fourth.

Ferrari were the meat in the Silver Arrows sandwich with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc ending second and third respectively. The gap between them about a tenth of a second.

The Italian team have a fast-tracked an update on their power unit for this weekend but reports indicate that they did not run the new package in FP1.

Romain Grosjean made good use of a “nearly all new car” to clock the fifth best time, a tad under a second shy of the top time suggesting impressive progress by Haas with their second spec car.

In the sister car, Kevin Magnussen ran the older-spec chassis as a deliberate back-to-back test. He ended the session in seventh albeit three tenths down on his teammate. The American team is sure to bolt the new bits onto the Dane’s car for the afternoon session.

Local hero Carlos Sainz was sixth in the McLaren, fastest of the Renault quartet but 1.2 seconds down on the benchmark pace, but nine-tenths up on teammate Lando Norris down in 16th.

Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly was fastest of the Honda-powered posse but a massive 1.3 seconds off Bottas’ effort. Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso was ninth, under a tenth of a second down on the Frenchman. Alex Albon was 15th, seven tenths down on his teammate.

Coupled to Verstappen’s limited running, this is not the kind of start to the weekend that the energy drinks organisation was hoping for, unless Honda have a plan of course.

Underachieving again were the Renault pair with Nico Hulkenberg in tenth and Daniel Ricciardo ninth but 1.5 seconds adrift of the pace.

McLaren confirmed during the session that both cars were running the upgraded Renault PU, while the works team confirmed that only Ricciardo used the updated engine in FP1.