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Formula 1 media chief Luca Colajanni looks back on the first day of track action at the Spanish Grand Prix, providing an insiders account of Friday in Barcelona.
The first day of track action for the Formula 1 Emirates Gran Premio De España 2019 got underway today at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit, on the outskirts of the city.
It also marks the start of the mainly European part of the season, which runs up to the Italian Grand Prix on 8th September, the only interruption being the trip to Canada at the beginning of June.
If Formula 1 was a tennis match, one could say that Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport has claimed the first set here on Spanish soil. Its drivers came first and second in the afternoon session, which is usually the most relevant one on a Friday.
Valtteri Bottas was quickest in 1.17.284, just 49 thousandths faster than his team-mate Lewis Hamilton. In fact, Bottas, who leads the championship, was also fastest in the morning, when he was the only driver to get under the 1m 18s barrier with a time of 1.17.951.
The Finn seemed particularly comfortable on his long runs towards the end of FP2, when he ran the Soft tyre before switching to the Medium. As for Hamilton, the reigning world champion ran Hard tyres for his final stint.
On what would be the second row of the grid if it was decided on a Friday, we find Scuderia Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel taking turns to be quickest out of the pair in the two sessions: the German won the duel in the first one, second fastest overall, doing a 1.18.066 to the Monegasque driver’s 1.18.172, while in the second session the positions were reversed, 1’17’585 beating 1’17’673.
The two Ferrari men took different approaches to their long run in FP2, Vettel using the Medium tyres in his second stint, while Leclerc went for the Hard. Ferrari and Renault have both brought an updated version of their power units to Spain, but for the time being, Mercedes still seems to have the upper hand, although, as always, Friday’s time should not be taken as being too meaningful.
If one looks at individual sector times, Ferrari was quickest in the first one, with Leclerc’s 21.617 being almost two tenths better than third placed Bottas’ 21.811.
Then Mercedes had the upper hand in sector 2, with Hamilton doing a 28.656 against Leclerc’s 28.853, before pulling out an even bigger gap in the third and slowest sector, where Vettel, the quickest Ferrari was four tenths slower than Bottas (27.070 to 26.633) finding himself also outgunned by Max Verstappen, third in 26.995.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Dutch driver was, as is becoming something of a tradition, the usual fifth, snapping at the heels of the Ferraris and Mercedes. Verstappen’s best lap was a 1.18.035, putting him ahead of Romain Grosjean (1.18.153) for Rich Energy Haas F1 team, his Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly (1.18.238) and the other Haas of Kevin Magnussen (1.18.355.)
The local hero, Carlos Sainz is ninth for Renault in 1.18.658, while Daniil Kvyat rounds off the top ten for Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda with a best time of 1.18.722.
The Montmelo track has the honour of being the first circuit to host all Formula 1’s feeder series at the same race meeting. Friday was the day for free practice and qualifying. In the FIA Formula 2 Championship, pole position went to Luca Ghiotto (UNI-Virtuosi) with a best time of 1.28.031.
He is followed by Nicholas Latifi (DAMS, 1.28.212) and his team-mate Guanyu Zhou (1.28.249). It was the first ever event for the new FIA Formula 3 Championship and pole position went to the Russian Prema Racing driver Robert Shwartzman in a time of 1.31.975. Alongside him on the grid for Race 1 will be the Dane Christian Lundgaard (ART Grand Prix) with team-mates Marcus Armstrong and Jehan Daruvala on the second row.