Lewis Hamilton quickest in FP2 as Mercedes stays ahead
Spanish Grand Prix - FP2

Lewis Hamilton quickest in FP2 as Mercedes stays ahead

Lewis Hamilton topped second practice for the Spanish Grand Prix with a time 0.090s clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

After Mercedes dominated the opening practice session on Friday morning, Ferrari closed the gap to 0.310s in the afternoon as all the teams sampled the soft compound tyres for the first time. Kimi Raikkonen was the fastest of the two Ferraris by 0.108s but was still 0.220s off Bottas in second.

Most of Mercedes' advantage was found in the final sector, which consists of slower corners and requires good traction. Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the high-speed corners of sector two, but was 0.281s slower than Hamilton in sector three alone.

High winds caught a number of drivers out during the session, with Vettel and Bottas both making trips through the gravel at Turns 4 and 5 respectively. The teams experienced similar issues during testing at the Circuit de Catalunya, with a gust of wind in the middle of a corner capable of leaving the driver unable to react to a sudden shift in the aerodynamic balance of the car.

This weekend's race has been billed as a decisive round in the championship as all teams bring major updates to the cars for the start of the European season. Mercedes has made big visual changes to the front of its car, with a new nose and new aerodynamic elements channelling air to the underneath of the car. The team also has new power units for both drivers with a focus on reliability over performance. The changes to the Ferrari are less obvious, but it will not be until qualifying on Saturday that the true swing in performance is revealed.

Red Bull is also hoping to make big gains this weekend and in Max Verstappen's hands the RB13 finished the session 0.636s off Hamilton. The Dutch teenager also subjected his car to a trip through the gravel at Turn 9 after a slide on the exit spat him into the run-off at high speed. But once a sod of turf and a few stones had been removed from the floor of his car back in the garage, he was able to get back on track with no obvious damage done. Daniel Ricciardo had a less eventful session in the second Red Bull but was another tenth off the pace in sixth.

Renault showed promising pace with the seventh and eighth fastest times of the session. Nico Hulkenberg was 0.8s off Hamilton's best time and 0.3s faster than teammate Jolyon Palmer, who in turn was just 0.023s quicker than the fastest Williams of Felipe Massa. Carlos Sainz rounded off the top ten for the second session in a row at his home grand prix.

Fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso returned to the track in the afternoon after a catastrophic Honda engine failure stopped his progress just three corners in to the morning session. Despite a delay at the start of the session while McLaren completed a power unit change, he returned to complete 21 laps, albeit with the slowest time of all.

His McLaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was 13th fastest for the second session in a row, splitting the battle between Haas and Force India just outside the top ten. Further down the order Lance Stroll and Daniil Kvyat set times over a second off their respective teammates and split the two Saubers in 16th and 19th.

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