First free practice at the Spanish Grand Prix topped by Sebastian Vettel.
Sebastian Vettel led a Ferrari one-two in the opening practice session of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, as Mercedes settled for second best. A second best half a second down to the Italian’s, as the Brackley based outfit ran extensively on the medium compound tyres.
When the opening practice session engaged, Romain Grosjean took to the track with a cluster of cars following his Haas in tow. One of which was Red Bull’s new driver, Max Verstappen, as he made the step up to the main team in place of Daniil Kvyat.
Kvyat himself followed onto the track shortly after, as he made his return to Toro Rosso for the first time since the close of 2014. His move back to Toro Rosso comes just two races on from claiming a podium finish in China, and joins a team fighting for the lower point finishes.
In contrast, Hamilton comes to Spain looking to fight for the maximum points finish as he looks to eat into Rosberg’s 43-point championship lead. He does however also come to Spain with third and fourth power unit elements, to parts such as his MGU-H. Whereas Rosberg remains on the first of each.
Rosberg also remained first on the leaderboard after the early times from Mercedes hit the board, with Hamilton initially going top on a 1:29.835. Nico tho set a 1:26.951 to instantly move 2.8 seconds up, and just one tenth down on the best FP1 lap from Spain last year.
After a few more laps, the fastest first free practice time from a year ago was now 1.5 seconds down on Nico’s latest best. A lap actually strong enough to claim third on the grid, ahead of Vettel. A further note to take from Nico’s early FP1 lap (and Lewis’, who sat just three thousandths of a second back) was that the Mercedes was running on the medium tyres. Even Kimi Raikkonen, lapping on the soft compound tyre, could not lap faster in the early stages.
In contrast to Kimi, Vettel managed to edge ahead of Rosberg when he came out flying on the softs. Unfortunately for Sebastian, his initial best was just two hundredths up before he found another tenth.
Despite not setting the best time when he first came out on the softs, Kimi was later able to move just shy of eight tenths up on Rosberg. Again though, Rosberg’s best was set on medium tyres – this time even on used mediums – whereas Kimi had come back out with another fresh set of the yellow walled option tyres.
While the Ferrari’s scrapped with Mercedes for the best FP1 time, other drivers were not having the best of times. Particularly Sergio Perez and Daniil Kvyat. For the Force India was forced to box mid-run as smoke began to flow from the Mexican’s exhaust due to an oil leak. Kvyat on the other hand was simply on stilts in the garage as they changed his set-up.
Meanwhile in Kvyat’s old seat, Verstappen put an early acceleration problem to bed and moved into the top eight, a few places down on Ricciardo. Their times however were split by Kevin Magnussen as the Dane in the yellow Renault nestled between the ‘Bulls.
K-Mag however fell down the order as the session progressed, while Verstappen remained two tenths shy of his new team-mate for sixth. Behind the ‘Bulls also came the Williams’ of Bottas and Massa. Yet the session, and particularly turn five, proved an issue for Massa as he lost control of his car at T5 on turn in.
Perez meanwhile remained in the Force India garage as the team worked on his oil leak. Whereas Mercedes, like in pre-season testing, remained lapping the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on the medium tyres while Ferrari led the field on the softs. When the chequered flag fell Vettel remained in P1, although Ferrari were the only team to run the softs in FP1.
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