Valtteri Bottas fastest in opening practice in Barcelona

F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan

Valtteri Bottas finished fastest in opening practice for the Spanish Grand Prix as Lance Stroll crashed out.

Bottas, who leads Lewis Hamilton in the standings by one point, set the pace at the Circuit de Catalunya ahead of Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

Hamilton was fourth in the first running of the weekend, lapping more than half-a-second adrift of his Mercedes teammate.

In the final minutes, Racing Point driver Stroll lost control of his car on the entry to Turn 9, and collided head-on with the barriers. The Canadian, 20, suffered substantial damage to the front of his car.

“Jesus Christ, I hit the grass on entry,” said Stroll, before walking away unscathed from the incident.

Stroll’s crash brought a premature end to the session as the red flags were deployed to tow away his stricken car.

Bottas took his second victory of the season at the last round in Azerbaijan to move back ahead of Hamilton in the title race.

The Finn will be pleased with his start to the weekend here, impressing for Mercedes with a time of one minute and 17.951 seconds.

Vettel, already 35 points behind in the championship race, conceded on Thursday that he must return to winning ways – his previous victory coming at last August’s Belgian Grand Prix.


The Italian team have brought a number of updates, including an upgraded engine, to the first European round of the campaign, and Vettel finished 0.115 sec adrift of Bottas. Leclerc was within a quarter-of-a-second of the Mercedes driver.

Bottas, however, missed the final 15 minutes of the session with an hydraulic issue. An oil leak contributed to the Finn’s engine shutting down, with Mercedes now investigating the source of the problem.

For Hamilton, bidding to claim a hat-trick of consecutive Spanish wins, the Briton struggled with tyre wear on his fastest lap before finishing six tenths back.

Haas’ Romain Grosjean was the only other driver to finish within one second of Bottas. The Frenchman was fifth ahead of McLaren driver Carlos Sainz. In the sister McLaren, British teenager Lando Norris ended the running in 16th, 2.1 sec off the pace.

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