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Hamilton shades Bottas to top Friday practice in Spain

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton set the pace on Friday in practice for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, the fifth round in the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship, and the first European race of the season.

Hamilton was quickest in both sessions at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, edging Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.029secs in FP1.

The Briton then lowered the marker in FP2 with a 1min 20.802sec lap to leave him 0.090secs up on Bottas at the end of the first day.

“First practice was very, very good but in second practice the track changed and shifted quite a lot, so it was slippery and quite a lot slower for everyone [at times] – especially with the gusts of wind. It was massively challenging but still fun nonetheless,” Hamilton said.

“The team has done an amazing job with the upgrades and the car is working just as we expected. It’s been a much better start to the weekend for me than in Sochi, so I’m very happy. We’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep working, we want to be number one.”

“Today was an important one for us with the new upgrade package on the car,” added Bottas. “Our target was to evaluate if the new upgrades are working well and it seems like they are. At this time it’s way too early to tell exactly where we are, but everything seems to be working well so far.

“It’s always nice to start the weekend in a positive way, but the main days are Saturday and Sunday. As always we will work hard to find any performance.

“I really enjoyed it out there today so I hope we can squeeze some more performance out of the package.”

Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen was ‘best of the rest’, 0.310secs off the pace, while Championship leader Sebastian Vettel ended the day one spot back in the sister car, 0.108secs slower, despite suffering a technical problem this morning that stopped him at the end of the pit lane and despite also going off at Turn 4 right at the end of FP2.

“Today the conditions seemed to be quite challenging, but we can improve,” Vettel insisted. “I wasn’t totally happy as I think a lot was left in the track and I didn’t find it at the end. At the same time I feel the car is quick so I just need to get it right.

“Overall, the atmosphere is good, but obviously now I am more focused on what happened today. I think everybody struggled today. I don’t know who brought more updates but I think what really matters is who brings the best ones”.

Behind, Red Bull Racing duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took fifth and sixth, 0.147secs the difference.

“I think it looks like we have closed the gap a little bit to Ferrari so this is a big positive, but it looks like Mercedes have brought a good update package as well so they are still quite far ahead. We are still the third team but the changes are taking us in the right direction and we have found an increase in grip,” Verstappen noted.

Quizzed on his off in FP2, he replied: “I was at full lock in Turn 9 and suddenly a gust caught the rear and forced me off the track and through the gravel, luckily there was not much damage. I saw a few guys get caught out by the wind.

“This circuit is always quite hard on the tyres so the last sector is usually quite tricky but the wind definitely did not help.”

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer kept the two-by-two formation going in seventh and eighth, with Williams driver Felipe Massa ninth and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz tenth. Sainz also brought out the red flags in FP2 when he ran wide in Turn 9 and lost some bodywork.

Further back, Romain Grosjean was P11 for Haas, ahead of the Force India’s of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez in 12th and 14th, sandwiching the McLaren Honda of Stoffel Vandoorne.

McLaren Honda had another difficult day with Fernando Alonso failing to set a time in FP1 after stopping early on at Turn 2 with oil pouring from his car triggering a Virtual Safety Car period. Alonso did get out in FP2 – albeit almost 30 mins late – but concluded the day at the bottom of the times, joking: “The engine feels good. Much slower than before. Amazing…”

Of the rest, Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen took 15th, with Marcus Ericsson, Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat and Pascal Wehrlein in positions 16 through to 19.

Sergey Sirotkin got a run-out in FP1 – using Palmer’s Renault – but again, like in Russia two weeks ago, technical problems limited his time on track with the Russian only getting in 10 laps.

Practice 2 times available – HERE

Practice 1 times available – HERE

Picture credit: Mercedes

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