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Spanish GP 2019

MAY 10, 2019

Practice 1 Report - You’ve been upgraded

By Dan Knutson in Barcelona

The Spanish Grand Prix – the first round of the European season – is a race where all the teams introduce upgrades for their cars. Friday morning’s Free Practice 1 was the first chance they had to check them out on track. Quickest of the upgraded cars was Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes, albeit by just 0.115 of a second over Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc; Red Bull TAG Heuer –Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly; Renault – Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; McLaren Renault – Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris; Racing Point Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll; Alfa Romeo Ferrari – Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi; Toro Rosso Honda – Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon; Williams Mercedes – George Russell and Robert Kubica.

“The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a track that everybody knows very well, not only from Formula 1 testing, but also from previous categories,” Kubica said of the 2.892–mile (4.655 km) 16–turn track. “Since winter testing in Barcelona, a lot has changed, with the main difference being the weather and track conditions. I think everybody is looking forward to returning to Spain; it is the first typical European race and event where upgrades are brought.”

Kvyat and Magnussen were the first out. And soon all the drivers except for the Mercedes duo had done their installation laps.

Gasly posted the first lap time – a 1:23.115 which he then improved to a 1:21.410. He was on Pirelli’s hard compound tires. And he was the only driver circulating a dozen minutes into the session.

Hamilton finally headed out 20 minutes into FP1.

Once things got rolling, Vettel took the lead with his 1:18.407. That was 0.512 faster than his teammate Leclerc in second spot.

Vettel later reported that something had come off his car at Turn 15.

At the 40-minute mark, when each driver has to return a set of tires to Pirelli, the order was: Vettel, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Bottas, Grosjean, Verstappen, Magnussen, Norris, Hulkenberg and Stroll. Hamilton was down in 17th.

Russell was the first back in action after the break. He radioed that the traction was very poor.

Magnussen, on the soft Pirelli slicks, turned some fast laps and moved up one spot to sixth. His teammate Grosjean bounced off and back on the track at Turn 7.

Hamilton dropped to last place with 33 minutes remaining in FP1. But then he and Bottas did runs with the soft Pirellis tires. Bottas grabbed first with a 1:17.990. Hamilton turned a 1:18.575 after running wide and slotted into third behind Vettel.

Next the Ferrari drivers did their soft tire runs. Leclerc took second with a 1:18.388.

Vettel said he had “a bit of a messy lap with the traffic and stuff” so he did a cool down lap for the tires and made another attempt. That yielded a 1:18.066, fast enough for second place and 0.115 slower than Bottas.

Verstappen radioed something was wrong with the car, and the team told him to “box.”

With other drivers also doing their own fast laps, the order changed considerably. With 20 minutes remaining the top ten were now: Bottas, Vettel, Leclerc, Hamilton, Grosjean, Sainz, Magnussen, Gasly, Kvyat and Hulkenberg. As usual, the two Williams drivers were at the tail end of field.

Now on worn tires, the drivers were not going to turn faster lap times, so FP1 ended with the upgraded Bottas out front and the top ten unchanged. But Bottas and Verstappen did not turn laps in the final part of the session as both their cars had fluid leaks.

With just a couple minutes remaining the session was red flagged when Stroll hit the barriers at Turn 3. “I clipped the grass,” he said.