Championship leader Valtteri Bottas ended the opening free-practice session of the weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with the fastest time as drivers up and down the pit lane worked through their team’s updates brought to the first European event of the season.
The Mercedes-AMG Motorsport driver, who has won two of the opening four races of 2019 and finished second in the other two, set a best time of 1:17.951s to edge the first session, although it was curtailed early with an apparent oil leak that required his engineers to remove his floor.
The session itself was ended with just over a minute remaining when Lance Stroll crashed his Racing Point F1 Team car at turn nine, the Canadian touching the grass on entry and hitting the barrier with the front of the car. He was able to get out of the car unaided, but his car will need some repairing before the second session later in the day.
At the front of the field, despite a couple of wild moments early in the session, Bottas finished 0.115 seconds clear of Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with the German using the updated Ferrari engine for the first time along with a new oil from Shell, with his team-mate Charles Leclerc just 0.094 seconds further back in third.
Lewis Hamilton was not as happy as his team-mate at the front of the field and was 0.624 seconds behind Bottas in fourth place, with the reigning World Champion complaining on the radio about his rear tyre preparation not being as it should have been after his quickest lap of the session.
Romain Grosjean used the updates from his Haas F1 Team to good effect to finish fifth, just under a second back on the pacesetting time of Bottas, but the Frenchman did have an off-track moment of his own at turn seven where a snap of oversteer saw him run across the gravel trap.
Carlos Sainz Jr., who has scored points in each of his four previous Spanish Grand Prix outings, ended up sixth fastest for the McLaren F1 Team ahead of the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen, although he did not have the same updates as his team-mate for this session as the team tried to analyse the tyre issues they have faced earlier in the season.
Pierre Gasly, who was the first driver to set a time early in the session, was the only Red Bull Racing driver to make it inside the top ten in eighth, with the Frenchman 1.334 seconds off the pace, while another oil leak affected the running of team-mate Max Verstappen, who ended up twelfth fastest as a result of his limited track time.
Verstappen had a close moment with Bottas early in the session as he came up quickly behind the Mercedes driver at the chicane. Bottas appeared not to see the Dutchman, who was forced to abort his lap as a result. At present it is unclear to whether the stewards will be interested in looking at the incident with a view at penalising the championship leader.
Daniil Kvyat was quietly impressive and ninth fastest for Scuderia Toro Rosso ahead of the two Renault F1 Team racers, Nico Hülkenberg completing the top ten ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, the duo separated by just 0.061 seconds.
Behind the hindered Verstappen came the leading Racing Point of Stroll in thirteenth, with team-mate Sergio Pérez having a difficult session to finish seventeenth fastest, while Antonio Giovinazzi was the leading of the two Alfa Romeo Racing drivers in fourteenth as Kimi Räikkönen, who has scored points in each of the four Grand Prix of 2019 to date, ended down in eighteenth.
Alexander Albon was more than seven-tenths of a second back on Toro Rosso team-mate Kvyat, and that time difference meant the Anglo-Thai driver was down in fifteenth, just ahead of the second McLaren of Lando Norris.
Bringing up the rear again were the two Williams Racing drivers, with Robert Kubica ahead of George Russell by a tenth of a second, although both were around three-seconds off the pace of the frontrunners, meaning they are set for another tough weekend.
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Free Practice 1 Result
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