Hamilton, Sainz and Norris bring the fight

Hamilton, Sainz and Norris bring the fight to Verstappen

Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren are once again lining up as the main rivals to World Championship leaders Verstappen and Red Bull, clocking up the quickest times on the opening day of the 2024 FORMULA 1 ARAMCO GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA.

Formula 1

As the FORMULA 1 ARAMCO GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2024 weekend got underway in earnest, the general feeling was that Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was Max Verstappen and Red Bull territory. The numbers do not lie, with the Dutchman,  in line with the Verstappen era in F1®, on the top spot of the podium for the past two years running. Despite being tipped as the favourite, the two practice sessions held today in front of crowds of 58,785 spectators show that the World Championship is still far from decided.

There is only one driver with a record to rival that of Max Verstappen and that is the fastest man on the track today, Lewis Hamilton. The Englishman claimed a run of five Spanish Grand Prix victories  from 2017 to 2021, as well as another win in 2014. There is no question that, despite not going through his best sporting moment, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team driver still has a lot to say. Hamilton set the fastest time of the day, stopping the clock at 1:13.264 in the second session of the day, which was faster overall than morning practice.

Carlos Sainz was not far behind, just 22 thousandths of a second off Hamilton’s time. The Scuderia Ferrari HP driver bolted around the Catalan track with things looking very positive for the rest of the weekend. McLaren’s Lando Norris was third fastest with a time of 1:13.319, maintaining the pace that secured him second place in Canada where he was the only one able to take the fight to Verstappen. In truth, things are getting increasingly tighter at the top of the table.

Pierre Gasly (BWT Alpine F1 Team) ended the day fourth and Max Verstappen (Oracle Red Bull Racing), fifth, with the Championship leader trailing Hamilton by just over two tenths of a second. All the drivers set their quickest laps on soft tyres, the fastest compound of the weekend. Tyres will play a decisive role at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya due to the high track temperatures.

Indeed, the drivers have already faced asphalt temperatures of 40ºC and 55ºC today, which has proved challenging for all the teams and for Fernando Alonso in particular, with the Spaniard struggling to find the rhythm with his Aston Martin AMR24 and finishing ninth in the morning and fourteenth in the afternoon session. Alonso went out for the first run of the day with some set-up changes designed to give him more grip which, rather than help, left him further off the pace and his team changed the rear spoiler again in Practice 2 to find some extra downforce.

The majority of the teams have brought a number of upgrades for the Spanish Grand Prix and today’s practice sessions were crucial for testing how the updates would perform. All of which means that the true intentions of the teams and drivers may not be revealed until tomorrow.

Paul Aron, edges out his Formula 2 lead with pole

Paul Aron (Hitech Pulse Eight) took pole position in the Formula 2 qualifying session at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The 20-year-old Estonian driver, already topping the leaderboard coming into this event has further extended that advantage with the addition of two more points as his prize for pole. Isack Hadjar (Campos Racing), second overall, was fastest out of the blocks but failed to improve on his second run and dropped to eleventh position. To add to his woes, the inverted Formula 2 grid in the Sprint race only includes the top ten, so the French driver will start eleventh in both races and will have to make up ground to maintain his challenge in the championship battle.

Second-placed Jak Crawford (DAMS) was just two thousandths of a second off Aron’s time, with Franco Colapinto (MP Motorsport) in third, missing out by just six thousandths of a second. Top rookie Gabriel Bortoleto  (Invicta Racing) was five hundredths of a second off the fastest time. Catalan driver Pepe Martí (Campos Racing) managed to climb up to fourth place but, half a second off Aron’s pace, he dropped down the order to finish fourteenth. Martí qualified just ahead of Oliver Bearman (Prema Racing), who took part in the first Formula 1 free practice with the Haas team. His teammate, Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who also has all the makings of a future F1 driver, was fifth.

Christian Mansell bags his first pole in Formula 3

19-year-old Australian driver Christian Mansell (ART Grand Prix) took pole position in the Formula 3 qualifying session. All the drivers got in three runs, with Mansell setting the fastest lap of 1:28.463 on his third attempt. It was a close-run session with the top four finishing within five hundredths of a second of each other and little more than a second separating all 30 drivers on the grid. Mansell’s first Formula 3 pole time does not, however, beat Pepe Martí’s record set last year (1:27.6).

The Australian will share the front row of the grid in Sunday’s race with Arvid Lindblad (Prema Racing), while Nikola Tsolov (ART Grand Prix) and Luke Browning (Hitech Pulse Eight) will line up on the second row. The Campos Racing team has two cars in the top 10, Oliver Goethe, fourth, and Sebastián Montoya, tenth, with their third driver, Mari Boya, finishing eleventh.

Abbi Pulling steals her third and fourth consecutive pole position in the F1 Academy

The Alpine driver has done it again with another double pole position secured during a tight qualifying session in which Chloe Chambers, Nerea Martí and Doriane Pin fought hard to deprive the championship leader of the honour. Chambers was only 59 and 76 thousandths of a second shy of Pulling’s fastest times, results that will see the Haas driver on the front row of the grid for the first time tomorrow, just ahead of hometown heroine, Nerea Martí, for the first of the races.

A sustainable event

Under the 3C (Conscience, Commitment and Coherence) management philosophy – which integrates social, economic and environmental aspects – the Circuit works to act responsibly in its mission, “Driving for a better future”, within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

As a highlight, this year’s Grand Prix, which is ISO 20121 certified, will have an important new feature: the largest public self-consumption photovoltaic installation in Catalonia, which became operational last October, providing the Catalan circuit with a total of 2,319 solar panels, which generate 50% of the energy consumed.

Other actions underway at the circuit are the rental of low-emission generators, the donation of surplus food, the range of km0 and organic food outlets, the provision of drinking water fountains in public areas, the improvement of the biodiversity of green areas, collaboration with companies with social value, the recovery and recycling of waste, the promotion of sustainable mobility, the promotion of the circular economy and many others.

Activities for all

Located in the public area behind the Main Grandstand, the Fan Zone has become a firm favourite among visitors, offering something for everyone, with eSports simulators, podium and driver selfie recreation areas, wind tunnel simulations etc. Both the Green Zone and the Kids Zone are located in the Crater Forest area. The Summer Fest space (behind Grandstand B) is this year’s fun new area, with numerous activities to keep visitors entertained. And the entertainment continues in the Pelouse Jove area with DJ performances.

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