Championship leader Charles Leclerc edged out Carlos Sainz as Ferrari completed a one-two in practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Leclerc, who heads Max Verstappen in the standings by 19 points, saw off Sainz by 0.079 seconds at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
World champion Verstappen finished third, one spot ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell with Lewis Hamilton sixth – almost one second off the pace. Two-time world champion and home favourite Fernando Alonso split the Mercedes cars.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team have brought a number of new parts to the sixth round of the campaign – including a revised floor – in the hope of fixing the ‘porpoising’ woes which have so far derailed their season.
Hamilton is already 68 points behind Ferrari’s Leclerc with his dreams of a record-breaking eighth crown all but over for the year.
And on the evidence of the opening running, the Silver Arrows look poised to remain third fiddle to both Ferrari and Red Bull. Russell finished seven tenths off Leclerc with Hamilton 0.983 sec back.
However, both Hamilton and Russell did not appear to be bouncing up and down as vehemently as other races this year.
There was a nervy moment for Russell when he had to take evasive action to avoid a collision with Red Bull’s Verstappen in the final sector.
“What the hell,” said Russell. “I almost crashed into the back of him.”
McLaren have also brought a raft of upgrades to a sweltering Barcelona, with British driver Lando Norris running the revised parts on his car in the first action of the weekend.
Norris finished seventh, 1.4 sec back, but half-a-second and two positions ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the other McLaren.
Formula E champion Nick de Vries finished 18th, as a stand-in for Alexander Albon at Williams, while Estonian driver Juri Vips was last on his grand prix debut as he replaced Sergio Perez for the first session.
Vips was 1.2 sec slower than anyone else. Second practice gets under way at 5pm local time (4pm UK).
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