F1 Spanish GP, Friday: Top 3 tussle, tight midfield, Vettel & more
The Friday in F1 Spanish GP saw a big Top 3 fight while midfield remained tight.
The Friday in F1 Spanish GP was more sedate with the Top 3 fighting among themselves, while the midfield gets ever closer than previous races.
Mercedes certainly looked to be in a better shape after Friday in F1 Spanish GP, with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton sharing the best times in FP1 and FP2, respectively. As usual, Red Bull's Max Verstappen was with them, at least, in the first session.
In the second session, Verstappen had a slight off on his fast lap, which meant, he ended up at the fag end of the Top 10. On race pace, though, it looks close between the three F1 drivers, with Sergio Perez also not too far off, even though on one lap, he is behind.
"It's been a good start to the weekend, the track is awesome and our balance is similar to what we had in the last race," said Hamilton. "It looks close but I think we've got good pace - we understand the car and know which direction we need to go balance-wise. We made some tweaks along the way, I don't know if the car got better through the session but there were definitely findings there and we'll analyse the two sessions to hopefully have a better set-up.
"It's amazing to see the progress that McLaren, Ferrari and Alpine are making, not just Red Bull, and that puts pressure on us," summed up Hamilton, as Mercedes F1 teammate Bottas concurred with the Brit, even in the assessment of other outfits. For Verstappen, he thought the day was fine, even though there was lots of chat on his radio.
"Overall I think we actually had quite a good day and the car seems pretty competitive," said Verstappen. "I was a little bit wide at Turn 10 on my push lap in FP2 but there is nothing shocking to report from either session. The track changes to Turn 10 seem better over one lap when you are pushing. It is a bit faster and more enjoyable to drive, but for overtaking I think it could be worse.
"How competitive we are going to be is always going to be a question mark on a Friday but from our side we are quite happy," he summed up, as Perez added that on race pace side, he feels Red Bull is in a good shape. While both Mercedes and Red Bull seemed confident, but the likes of Ferrari, Alpine and AlphaTauri, were there with them in the Top 10.
The likes of Aston Martin and McLaren were not too far off as well, making it one tight field. From among all, Ferrari looked to have some good pace, where Charles Leclerc noted that he changed his approach a bit to improve his weekend performance. Teammate Carlos Sainz felt he lost some ground in FP2, but hopes for an overnight solution.
"We had a good, clean day," said Leclerc. "I’ve changed my approach a little bit since Portimão. After every weekend, I try to analyse where I need to improve. So far, I'm driving a lot better and feel I am in a good place with the car, so I'm quite happy. Last year we struggled quite a lot here, and this year the car feels much better.
"It’s great for the whole team, especially those back at the factory who work so hard and can see it pay off looking at the numbers. It motivates us all. If there is a nice surprise then that will be welcome, but I think that the objective is to be just behind the front runners," summed up Leclerc, as the Alpine duo enjoyed a solid Friday.
“It was a good Friday for us," said Fernando Alonso. "Over the two sessions we concentrated on some small upgrades that we brought to the car this weekend and then collected some good information about the tyres and our car set up. Overall, I am pleased with our two sessions and I think the car balance feels good, so it gives me confidence."
Teammate Esteban Ocon's confidence is certainly high after scoring in the past two races by beating Alonso. After a low-key start to the F1 season despite showing solid pace, AlphaTauri is looking to make it count in Barcelona. They had a decent start in Top 10.
"I think overall FP2 was a good session for us, to finish sixth shows the car is strong," said Pierre Gasly. "The pace of the car is definitely there but the balance isn’t quite right yet, so we’ve got to make a few tweaks tonight to maximise our performance ahead of qualifying. Obviously, our main goal this weekend is to score points, as we’re fighting against tough opponents in the midfield pack, and I think if we can improve in the few areas that we’re struggling in we could be up for a good weekend."
Teammate Yuki Tsunoda felt much more confident than Portugal as last weekend, he had to learn the new F1 circuit, while Barcelona is known to him. The Japanese was behind Gasly and surrounded by the two Aston Martin drivers, where Sebastian Vettel finally showed good pace, after a lackluster start to his new journey.
After Lance Stroll got the upgrades the last time around, Vettel had it in Barcelona. "I think it was our best Friday of the year so far: plenty of laps for Lance and me, and we have done some important homework ahead of the F1 race," he said. "I felt happy and it was my opportunity to try the new parts, which are a step forward.
"It is hard to say exactly where we will be in a very close midfield competition, but we will try to find a bit more tonight to squeeze a few more tenths of performance," summed up Vettel, as the McLaren F1 duo seemed to be positive despite not registering a Top 10 time.
Daniel Ricciardo noted that the results don't look good on paper, but he is confident of a better show in qualifying, while Lando Norris admitted to struggling a bit. "Tricky day," he started. "We felt good in FP1 but, as the temperatures came up a bit in FP2, we struggled a little bit more. We need to understand that a bit better if we can and make some improvements. It didn't feel bad, but we were just a bit off the pace."
The remaining places were rounded out by Alfa Romeo Racing, Williams and Haas, where only the former looked to be in a better shape and could sneak into the Top 10 if something happens. Antonio Giovinazzi seemed to be a in better shape, as Kimi Raikkonen had to make up for the lost ground in FP1, when Robert Kubica was driving.
Over at Williams, George Russell also had to make up for missing FP1, where Roy Nissany was driving, as Nicholas Latifi struggled in the high-speed corners. Moving on to Haas, while there were not much complains from Mick Schumacher, for Nikita Mazepin, an early off, set him back again, as he had to take a slower approach.
"I think the track was improving with the sessions, obviously turn 10 is a bit new, which means the tarmac is very black so there’s still some dust and oil in it – it’s getting more rubbered in with the more laps we do," said Mazepin. "Again, it’s a Friday, so there are three free practices and we have one more to go. I always learn when I’m out but so far, my weekend starts where I’m three steps back from where I used to be driving different cars, and then slowly I make the steps forward. If I end up one step ahead from where I wanted to start, I think that’s a good day for me – it was no different."
The British driver was the fastest as Red Bull was unable to show pace.
[Image courtesy: Mercedes] [Note: This story was written on FormulaRapida.net]