Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport driver Valtteri Bottas has described his Friday practice running for the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix as a ‘good day’ but insisted that there’s ‘work’ still to do.
Bottas was the fastest driver in the opening ninety minute session at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, lapping nearly eight-tenths of a seconds clear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes dominated the morning session.
However, while Hamilton topped the timing sheets in the afternoon, Bottas slipped to sixth fastest, behind both cars from the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari teams.
The Finnish driver indicated that taking the wrong route on set-up in the afternoon was behind his drop.
“We made some changes for FP2, which didn’t improve the car, so we reverted back to the original set-up,” explained Bottas. “I didn’t really feel any gain of grip with the supersoft compared to the other tyres, so we will have to work on this area for tomorrow.
“It’s been a good day overall. The car felt good from the start, and FP1 was especially promising.”
Race simulations point to close battle
During the afternoon session when race pace simulations were conducted, the average pace of the top three teams (Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari) indicated little difference between the teams, on the supersoft tyre especially.
Bottas’s average pace on this compound was a 1:22.952s , with Hamilton around four tenths slower. Max Verstappen averaged the quickest time in his Red Bull on a 1:22.666s. On the more durable soft tyre, it was even closer with Sebastian Vettel averaging the fastest time, a 1:21.342s.
Bottas himself did not complete a simulation on the soft tyre, focussing on the medium compound Pirelli’s instead. He will run the softs during final practice on Saturday morning.
But the Finn highlighted the fact the Mercedes would be in locked into a three-way battle to secure its fifth win in six visits to the Barcelona track.
“Today has been a good start to the weekend, but things can change quickly from Friday to Saturday, especially since Ferrari and Red Bull looked quick,” he said.