Green light for the FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA PIRELLI 2017. With raised expectations to watch the teams’ updates at work, the 20 single-seaters took to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya track this morning. As the Championship touches down on European soil, all teams bring their new aero and mechanical updates, with a view to improving the cars’ performance in the coming rounds.
Mercedes firmly set the pace in the first free practice, and their two drivers swept the top positions, Lewis Hamilton beating Russian GP winner Valtteri Bottas by as little as 29 hundredths of a second on 1:21.521. The two Ferraris lagged way behind, Kimi Räikkönen almost a second slower (+0.935, on 1:22.456) and Sebastian Vettel a bit further back (+1.079, on 1:22.600). The German saw his SF70H suddenly stop in the home straight, but his team was able to sort out the gearbox issue a few minutes later.
The third challenger in the championship, Red Bull, brought a consistent improvement package for the RB13 and managed to place Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in fifth and sixth place (on 1:22.706 and 1:23.084).
All drivers clinched their fastest laps in the second half of the session, working in long stints on medium tyres, after having spent the first half of the practice on hard tyres to make sure that the changes were working smoothly. Not all of them were equally lucky, though. The first sobering blow came early for Fernando Alonso, who simply aimed at completing a race for the first time this season. However, his McLaren Honda abruptly stopped in the third corner, after a lubrication system failure caused the rear wheels to block. Alonso did not regain the track.
Local fans were at least able to enjoy Carlos Sainz laps, spent basically collecting data on the new aerodynamic solutions brought to the SSTR12 by Toro Rosso. He then moved on to clinch the 10th fastest time on short stints and medium tyres (1:24.044).
Renault’s Sergey Sirotkin filled in for Jolyon Palmer and rackec up about 10 laps despite a mechanical issue, a small consolation after being forced to retire after 2 laps in the latest Grand Prix, in Russia. Later in the session, with 7 minutes to go, the Virtual Safety Car was called in after Kevin Magnussen (Haas) run off the track.
The cars will be back on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya track later at 2pm, for the second free practice.