Max Verstappen has immediately made a statement that he is again the man to beat, topping the timesheets in both of Friday’s practice sessions at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya ahead of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
A blistering 1:14.606 in FP1 saw the two-time defending champion top teammate Sergio Perez by 0.768 seconds with Esteban Ocon a further 0.44 seconds off the pace in third.
Verstappen’s table-topping time was set mid-way through the one hour session which saw competitors adjusting the new layout without the final chicane, which has been removed for the first time since 2006.
Nyck de Vries impressed in FP1 to go fourth fastest, only 0.133 seconds off Perez, while Pierre Gasly was fifth, ahead of Fernando Alonso, the only driver who has experience racing on the circuit with no final chicane.
Kevin Magnussen went seventh fastest, one spot ahead of Charles Leclerc who topped teammate Carlos Sainz who was running new upgrades. George Russell rounded out the top 10, while Lando Norris was 11th and Lewis Hamilton 12th.
The session ran without major incident, dark clouds threatening rain which failed to eventuate. Both Red Bulls put in 32 laps, the most of the teams.
Verstappen was again at the top in FP2, this time only 0.170 seconds clear of Alonso. Niko Hulkenberg was third quickest, 0.42 seconds faster than Perez.
Alpine continue to show great pace following on from their good haul of points in Monaco, Ocon going fifth fastest in second practice and Gasly slotting into 10th.
Both Ferraris ran the new upgrades in FP2, with Leclerc going faster than Sainz as the duo slotted into sixth and seventh respectively.
A trip through the gravel did little to hurt Russell, the Mercedes driver topping Valtteri Bottas to set the eighth quickest lap, while teammate Lewis Hamilton could only manage 11th despite setting the fastest first sector.
Dark clouds again threatened rain late in the session, with drops falling on portions of the track as time ran out, drastically reducing the hot track temperature as a result.
Forecasts show rain may play a significant part on the rest of the weekend’s running, with wet conditions looking set to hamper both qualifying and the Grand Prix.
Coverage of FP3 begins at 10.15 pm tonight on Sky Sport 3, with qualifying beginning at 1.15 am. The Spanish Grand Prix begins at 1.00 am on Monday.
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