Sunday, 23 September, 2018

Mercedes in front again in final practice for Spanish Grand Prix

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel during practice After winning the first two races in 2018 Sebastian Vettel finished off the podium in China and Azerbaijan Credit REUTERS
Betsy Taylor | 13 May, 2018, 00:15

Bottas's time of 1:18.148 in the morning was the fastest lap of a changeable and unpredictable day and eighth-tenths faster than his teammate's best.

Their performance was similar to their one in Australia, where Hamilton proved ominously dominant.

And while Hamilton was satisfied with his progress on Friday at Barcelona, he remains wary of the Ferrari threat.

While Hamilton topped the timesheets ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel was only fourth fastest on what the Ferrari driver described as "a mixed day" for the Prancing Horse.

Home hero Fernando Alonso started the weekend a morale-boosting sixth, behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, with his McLaren displaying a heavily-revised three-pronged nose - one of several conspicuous upgrades around the pit lane.

Hartley was taken to the Circuit de Catalunya medical centre for checks but was passed fit to continue even if his presence in later qualifying looked unlikely due to the extent of the damage.

"I needed this pole".

"I think everything is close, but I don't know what Ferrari's pace is", said world champion Lewis Hamilton.

"And it's a Mercedes one-two which is great here".


Hamilton, who won from pole previous year and who is seeking to extend his record run of points-scoring finishes to 30 races, had started the day unexcited by his prospects following Mercedes' struggle to extract a strong performance from their new auto. It is a shame it is only four-hundredths, but it is good for the team. "We got through all our running and we were quite fast compared to previous years, but we've still got some work to do overnight". "I'm happy with that. But let's wait and see". I'm hoping that it's cooler and calmer tomorrow.

The Q1 session began in mild conditions with rain threatening and soon produced drama.

But Hamilton still expects his title rival to be challenging for pole position in today's qualifying shoot out.

The virtual safety auto was deployed in the morning when Ricciardo's vehicle ran across the gravel and into the barriers.

He will have to ask the race stewards for permission to take part in Sunday?s race even if his vehicle is repaired and he can prove his fitness.

Lance Stroll was 19th behind teammate Sergey Sirotkin and attempting to improve at the end of the session when he suffered a unusual crash at Turn 12.

Hamilton has a narrow four-point lead over Vettel and will be buoyed by the fact that the team have the vehicle performing as needed at the opening of the European season, describing it as "a relief" that they finally had the tyres working after second practice.

"The Red Bull's obviously very close to my pace", he continued, "so I think, again, it's going to be relatively close between the top three teams".

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