Valtteri Bottas topped opening practice ahead of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix but team-mate Lewis Hamilton hit back in FP2 to go fastest of all for Mercedes in FP2.
Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly were all within half-a-second of the FP1 benchmark time as the midfield battle looks set to be a closely fought affair once again this weekend.
Max Verstappen’s run in FP2 was undone by an error at Turn 9, and the Red Bull driver had to settle for P9 heading into Saturday.
Here is the rundown of all of Friday’s practice action ahead of the 2021 Spanish GP.
Nikita Mazepin didn’t get off the mark at all well in Spain, catching the rear of his Haas to save a full spin early doors but sliding off the track and into the gravel at Turn Eight in the opening few minutes as a result. The Russian recovered to the track but it didn’t take long for him to get into more trouble.
Charles Leclerc came across the Haas on the racing line at Turn Four and made his displeasure known over team radio, saying the rookie would “never learn”.
Out in front, it was business as usual as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton traded fastest laps on the hard-compound tyre until the Mercedes driver laid down the benchmark on the harder compound 20 minutes into the session.
Fernando Alonso was the one to get closest to the Mercedes driver’s 1min 19.675sec benchmark on the initial runs as the teams got to grips with a green track surface.
Verstappen’s run plan took a hit along with his front wing as the Red Bull driver was the first victim of the extended sausage kerbs at the uphill Turns 7 and 8 chicane, riding his luck a little too much and damaging his front wing. He pitted for repairs while others continued on.
Sebastian Vettel was the first to switch onto soft tyres and set a new fastest lap, but that didn’t last long either as Hamilton restored his W12 to the top of the pile on a 1min 18.627sec.
Rubbing salt into the wound, Vettel fell foul of the kerbs at Turn 7 and lost part of the underside of his front wing as the clock ticked down to 25mins remaining.
Valtteri Bottas managed to displace his team-mate from the top spot on his soft tyre run, setting a 1min 18.504sec to go fastest of all until Robert Kubica found the gravel at the new Turn 10.
The Pole lost the back end of his Alfa Romeo on corner entry and spun into the gravel, bringing out the red flags with just over 15 minutes remaining in the session.
Practice resumed with nine minutes left of the first session and the Circuit de Catalunya Barcelona was immediately busy once again. Sergio Perez led the queue out onto the track for a final flurry of laps.
Verstappen was back out on track and had wound up for a hotlap but was caught out by an Aston Martin ahead. His subsequent attempt was good enough only for second, 0.033sec off of Bottas’s session-topping time.
There was a late scare for Bottas though as the Mercedes driver came to the end of the lap and almost ran into the back of a slow-moving Carlos Sainz, who was preparing for his own lap. The Mercedes man had to take avoiding action across the grass, flat-spotting his soft tyres in the process.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 7, 2021
Practice two began where the first session left off with both Mercedes drivers trading the fastest times to open proceedings.
Hamilton and Bottas swapped the top spot between them in the initial runs in the session, clocking their best time on medium compound tyres.
Tsunoda was the next driver to come across the Turn 7 sausage kerbs, running over them and reporting a shutdown over team radio.
Max Verstappen was on a lap that could have sent him fastest of all but a moment at Turn 9 undid his work earlier in the lap and left him down the order in ninth after everybody’s initial fast runs.
The traditional long runs began with 30 minutes of the session left, drivers testing the soft-tyre duration that could be the option to go with on Sunday with rain expected to arrive deep into the afternoon.
Bottas bettered his earlier time with a 1min 18.309sec, now on the soft tyres to go fastest of all until his team-mate went better still on a 1min 18.170sec to top the times.
After the team’s strong showing in Portugal, Alpine showed its pace was looking good ahead of qualifying with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso going fourth and fifth respectively on the soft tyres.
Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari was the car to get closest to the Mercedes one-two with a time good enough for third, 0.165sec down on the session-topping time from Hamilton.
Pierre Gasly and Tsunoda showed that AlphaTauri may well have taken a step forward this weekend, with laps on 0.4sec off of the top Mercedes time, their times good enough for sixth and seventh respectively.
Race runs in the high 1min 22’s-low 1min 23’s for the Mercedes drivers set the pace in the final 20 minutes of the session on medium tyres as teams explored their strategy options and long-run pace in conditions most applicable to those expected on Sunday.
Nobody matched the Black Arrows pace on the longer runs though Verstappen’s time 0.615sec down on the top Mercedes of Hamilton was set on the medium tyres versus the soft for the British driver.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 7, 2021