Spanish Grand Prix: Max Verstappen tops both Friday practice sessions

Formula 1
blurry photo of f1 car

Max Verstappen’s Red Bull headed the Aston Martin of home hero Fernando Alonso in Friday practice at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.170 seconds ahead of his fellow double champion, but behind them the order was unconventional as teams tested car upgrades and tyres.

Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas was third from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.

Ferrari were among the teams to try a car development, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ending sixth and seventh.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was fifth fastest, while the quickest Mercedes of George Russell was eighth, three places in front of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari spent the first session comparing their upgrade – centred on a new sidepod design and floor – on Sainz’s car with the standard specification on Leclerc’s. Both drivers ran the upgrade in the second session.

It appeared to have the desired effect because Leclerc’s race-simulation run on the soft tyre later in the session looked to be at around the same pace as Alonso’s Aston Martin, which has generally been stronger on Sundays than the Ferrari this year.

The Mercedes, by contrast, appeared to be slower than both, whether it be over a single lap or a longer run.

Verstappen, 39 points ahead of Perez after his win in Monaco last weekend, appeared imperious in whatever conditions, but his race run was incomparable with those of other drivers because he used the medium for his first long run before switching to the soft later, whereas most ran the soft first.

The track on which they ran has been revised since last year. The fiddly chicane at the end of the lap has been replaced and the circuit has returned to its historic layout with two fast right-handers to end the lap, not used since 2006.

Many drivers – including the Red Bull pair – were complaining in the first session that their cars were “bouncing” going into the final corner.

This marked a return of an aerodynamic problem known as “porpoising” that dominated much of last season and will be something teams will want to try to eradicate for the rest of the weekend.

Red Bull seemed to be on top of it by the second session but both Ferrari and Mercedes were still experiencing it.

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