After a disappointing weekend in Russia, it’s been going a lot better for Lewis Hamilton in Spain. He finished fastest in both practice sessions on Friday as Mercedes dominated Ferrari. It wasn’t quite such a good day for Sebastian Vettel and a possibly invisible companion, meanwhile on the tennis courts….
Lewis Hamilton finished 0.29 seconds ahead of team-mate Valterri Bottas in the first practice session on Friday. He was a second clear of the two Ferrari’s with Kimi Raikkonen in third and championship leader Sebastian Vettel fourth. Vettel’s Ferrari had gearbox problems while on the pit straight and will be hoping that doesn’t continue over the weekend.
It’s an important weekend with upgrades on all the cars this weekend and it’s Mercedes who seem to be getting the most benefit. Their cars have a narrower nose now with a new aerodynamic device and other new parts and it’s working a treat as they try to regain superiority over Mercedes, while Red Bull try to close the gap on the top two teams.
As sadly seems to be always the case this season, it wasn’t an enjoyable time for McLaren-Honda. Fernando Alonso’s car had a major engine failure on his very first lap sending his McLaren into a spin. He must be counting down the days to the Indy 500 race, while wondering how long it’d take a McLaren-Honda to complete 500 laps, if ever.
Alonso went back to his hotel for a game of tennis while Honda said the problem was caused by “an oil leak” and a new power-unit would be sorted out for the second practice session making a grid penalty later in the season ever closer.
The Mercedes dominance continued in the second practice session with another one-two led by Lewis Hamilton. Again, they had a good lead over Ferrari and it’s looking ominous for the Italian team as we head into qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.
Hamilton led Bottas by 0.09 second but was 0.31 seconds ahead of Raikkonen with Vettel a further 0.118 seconds behind. More bad news for Ferrari is that despite again finishing ahead of the two Red Bulls (Verstappen in fourth and Ricciardo fifth), the gap between the two teams is narrowing.
Tennis game over, Fernando Alonso returned to the circuit but had to hang around while an engine change was being finished off. Perhaps they should build a tennis court at the circuit for frustrated McLaren-Honda drivers. Finally, on the track, Alonso’s car struggled for pace and he finished slowest 0.5 seconds behind the next slowest driver. Team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne who had plenty of problems and a grid penalty in Russia. He finished 13th fastest in both of today’s practice sessions.
Lewis Hamilton congratulated the Mercedes team for an “amazing job with the upgrades” and said the car is “working just as we expected.” He may have been happy but Sebastian Vettel certainly wasn’t. The championship leader said, “I’m not happy. Struggling a bit to find the rhythm, with the conditions, probably more myself than the car.” He still feels that the car is quick but he “wasn’t always feeling as if I was captain on board.” Vettel added, “Sometimes somebody else was steering my ship but I hope tomorrow whoever that was will disappear.”
We could be in for a good race though this weekend because in second practice there was less than 0.8 seconds between the top six cars. Mercedes do seem to have the advantage again and that was the case during the race-simulation runs so Ferrari have it all to do this weekend. I’ll be back tomorrow so until then enjoy your racing and if you’re Fernando Alonso, hope the tennis goes well.