Formula 1

Lap times have been red-hot in Barcelona.

Lewis Hamilton fastest after eventful Friday practice at the Spanish GP

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Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time for Mercedes on an eventful Friday practice day ahead of the Spanish GP this Sunday.

Both he and teammate Valtteri Bottas shared the honours by leading one session apiece but in the second practice, it was the world champion who just had the edge with a best of 1m18.259s.

Lap times were considerably faster than 12 months ago around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya partly due to softer tyres being used this year but mostly because of a new track surface which has significantly increased the grip level.

Watching the cars, however, you would have never known as blustery winds made conditions very difficult for the drivers with many spinning or running off into the various gravel traps.

In the morning, the story was all about the teams testing the new upgrades for their cars whether it be the controversial Halo-mounted mirrors on the Ferrari or the new nose design at McLaren.

The majority of changes aren't so noticeable though, with tweaks to the wings, bargeboards and floor the most common.

Mercedes are among those teams where the differences aren't so apparent, but on the Soft and Medium tyre compounds, they have been flying around the Spanish circuit.

Red Bull has been the team to peg them back, however, with Daniel Ricciardo, the highest profile driver to crash in the morning, within a tenth-and-a-half of Hamilton in second and on the same Soft tyre.

Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Practice

The fastest rubber available is the Supersoft but with temperatures pretty high and the layout in Catalonia always one of the toughest of the year in terms of G-forces, the red-striped Pirelli is not providing enough grip for an entire flying lap.

Max Verstappen was the fastest man using that compound in third in the second Red Bull, ahead of Sebastian Vettel in fourth.

What was more encouraging for the Milton Keynes outfit was the long-run pace on the SuperSoft which was consistently several tenths faster per lap than Mercedes and also more durable, which could make choosing strategy very interesting indeed.

Bottas would set his best time of the day in the morning, which was only two-tenths behind Hamilton's afternoon benchmark, but amid the problems with the tyres would only be fifth in the second session.

Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Practice

Ferrari had a quiet day but remain very much in the game with Vettel the aforementioned fourth.

Kimi Raikkonen would be sixth after seeing his day ended early by an engine problem, with a tell-tail puff of smoke from the back suggesting he will likely require a new unit for final practice on Saturday.

The start of the European season can often see the biggest changes in the pecking order come in the midfield as the smaller teams bring bigger improvements at less regular intervals than the top three.

In this case, though, it was Haas returning as the fourth best team, just as they were in Australia.

The result was pretty surprising given how much the drivers appeared to struggle for grip, indeed Romain Grosjean would actually spin into the gravel at Turn 7 in the afternoon before returning to the track to set the seventh best time.

His teammate Kevin Magnussen was eighth ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne in the lead McLaren, three-tenths clear of local hero Fernando Alonso down in 12th. But the British team, with their noticeable changes to the car are looking more competitive.

Force India too usually get stronger from the Spanish race and Sergio Perez indicated that could be the case again in 10th, just ahead of the second 'pink panther' of Esteban Ocon.

Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Practice

The big disappointments of Friday were Renault as Nico Hulkenberg was only 13th fastest and the second Spaniard on the grid, Carlos Sainz, in 17th.

In fact, he would find himself behind both Sauber's on a strong day for the Swiss team. Marcus Ericsson led teammate Charles Leclerc by just 0.013s as they say in 15th and 16th positions, respectively.

Problems continue at Williams though as both their cars finished bottom of the standings in both sessions.

Robert Kubica made his first official Grand Prix weekend appearance since 2010 in the morning as he tested the new parts the British team have brought.

And the Pole would finish 1.2 seconds ahead of Lance Stroll who was the second driver to come to a halt in a gravel trap in that opening 90 minutes of running.

The Canadian would be back out in the afternoon and would lead teammate Sergey Sirotkin by half a second.

Full standings from the second session can be seen below:

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Topics:
Nico Hulkenberg
Renault
Stoffel Vandoorne
Haas
Esteban Ocon
Sebastian Vettel
Max Verstappen
Daniel Ricciardo
Sergio Perez
Romain Grosjean
Kimi Raikkonen
Fernando Alonso
Lewis Hamilton
McLaren
Mercedes
Red Bull
Formula 1

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