The Friday in F1 Spanish GP was a close affair for the teams at the front of the field with the Top 4 closely bunched, as Alpine jumped the gun.

It was close on Friday of F1 Spanish GP at Barcelona, with both the practice sessions seeing margin of under 0.100s between first and second. In fact, the Top 4 teams were closely bunched together at least with one driver showing good performance.

McLaren’s Lando Norris edged out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 0.024s in FP1, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finished 0.022s ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in FP2. Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren all showed glimpses of securing pole or a win.

Hamilton and George Russell were pleased with the outcome but are cautious still to see how it pans out eventually on Saturday and Sunday. Both felt comfortable with the car unlike Ferrari, where Sainz felt good but Charles Leclerc not so much in FP1.

The Spaniard did caution about the race pace where he struggled too. Leclerc, meanwhile, did come alive a bit in FP2 but states that there is pace to find still. Over at Red Bull, Max Verstappen termed it as a normal Friday, even though they didn’t look ultra dominant.

Teammate Sergio Perez focused on getting a better qualifying result with the penalty he is carrying. McLaren’s Lando Norris too felt good with the car, but Oscar Piastri noted of strong competition where fine margins would decide the fate.

He reckoned it wasn’t the straightforward Friday he has been having. The one who were left out by the Top 4 teams, was Aston Martin. They were outside the Top 10 which allowed the likes of Alpine and even Stake F1 Team to sneak in, with much to ponder.

Hamilton: “P1 was so-so. I went one direction with the car, we learnt quite a lot in that session. And then P2 definitely felt quite a bit better. I think we made some good changes and the car’s feeling really great today. Very hot, the track, very tough for the tyres, especially in the long runs, but it doesn’t feel like we’re too far off. I won’t really take too much notice of lap times necessarily, but I think the car’s definitely in a better place. I think we’ve got some work to do to improve it overnight and to see if we can hold onto the Red Bulls and the Ferraris and the McLarens.

“Everyone at the factory’s been working so hard, as they are every year, but I think having more of a North Star, we’ve got a much better understanding of where we want to go with the car. And I think the incremental steps that they’ve been taking – everyone’s been working so hard with building components and bringing them consistently rather than big chunks here and there, and for that I’m really grateful. And you’re starting to see that in how comfortable we are as drivers in the car, so it’s awesome.”

Verstappen: “We just tried a few different set-ups out there, [in] FP1, FP2, so it’s just trying to fine-tune a little bit. But at least I think the day itself was a bit more normal without any issues, so that’s what we were hoping for and now it’s about just trying to tidy up a little bit the car, but that’s quite normal. They were very tiny, it’s nothing too big. But so far everything is feeling normal.”

Norris: “I think a pretty good day. It’s never easy in these hot conditions, like it never feels amazing. The tyres overheat very quickly, so it’s difficult to get everything in the perfect window, but I think all in all it was a good start to the weekend. I’ve felt pretty comfortable with the car from the beginning. It’s close, and it’s going to be about trying to improve the small things tomorrow because I’m sure it’s going to be close again like it was in Canada.”

Leclerc: “I think it was a very difficult FP1 for everybody, first of all because of the conditions, it was extremely warm which makes those cars very difficult to drive with the overheating. Second, I think we were a bit out of place with the balance. Third, I didn’t have the upgrade at first, because we wanted to compare both cars, so all in all it was quite a difficult session on my side. In FP2 I found the feeling again, in the end put everything together and still quite a bit of pace to find. Overall, a bit of a difficult Friday for me but I know where to find the lap time so I’m not too worried for tomorrow. I have a very clear vision on what we have to do on the car to make it better, and I’m confident tomorrow we will do a step forward.”

Alonso: “It’s good to be back racing in Spain and seeing the passion of the fans here. It was quite a challenging day with low levels of grip out on track. We haven’t found the right window for our car yet, so we definitely have some work to do overnight to try find some more performance ahead of Qualifying tomorrow.”

As noted, both the Alpine F1 drivers were surprised to find themselves so much ahead in the field especially when they are not as close in the competition. Pierre Gasly was as high as fourth, while Esteban Ocon too backed him up with a Top 10 finish.

They are cautiously optimistic of their chances after a positive Friday, but knows the competition around. Another team to find some pace was Stake F1 Team, where Valtteri Bottas did make it inside the Top 10 and Zhou Guanyu showed better pace.

The new bits helped Bottas in extracting performance, while Guanyu reverted to his old spec which helped him regain confidence. Haas, meanwhile, were in the middle of all things as Oliver Bearman had his second FP1 outing in place of Nico Hulkenberg.

The ones who felt a bit down were the Visa Cash App RB and Williams pairs. The former brought a heavy update and need more time to extract and understand. The latter reckoned they did all but still found themselves at the back of the field.

Gasly: “I must say it was a very, very good FP2. It came a little bit as a surprise. We didn’t really expect to have such good pace. We’ll take that. This morning we had some issues on my car on the aero side. We managed to fix it in P2 and straight from the start it felt good. I closed my lap, I was happy with the lap and quite positively surprised. It put a smile on my face when I saw where we were. I think in terms of feeling, it’s still a few things which I’m not very comfortable with in the car, that I’d like to improve for tomorrow. But we’ve got definitely a good baseline to work with. I haven’t seen yet how it looks compared to the other guys. It was hot out there, there was some degradation and I think we kind of expect conditions to be similar to last year. So far, I must say it’s been a positive Friday. We’ll work well to make sure we manage to fine tune and continue to improve for tomorrow.”

Bottas: “Overall, it’s been a decent day in the office. We had two good, productive sessions, during which we tested different setups – ultimately finding one that allowed us to unlock some extra lap time throughout the day. Performance-wise, it seems like we are in a better place compared to the most recent events, which is without doubt a positive, and gives us confidence for the weekend ahead. The new bits we have on our car ran smoothly after a few small hiccups that we promptly fixed, and actually allowed us to make a step forward already in the second practice session, which is good. Obviously, it will be once again down to fine margins, so it’ll be important to go through the data we’ve gathered today, and extract everything we can from our car ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying.”

Ricciardo: “We struggled a little bit today and missed a bit of competitiveness, but driving is always fun and before today I hadn’t done this track with this last sector. It was the old one a long time ago, now the new one again, and I have to say that I much prefer it because I think that it definitely brings the track to life a bit more. The main upgrade we brought here is the floor, and with these cars, it’s such a big part of development. There’s still some optimism and once we dive into it tonight, we’ll find how it’s working and better ways to set up the car around it. We still have a bit to do but I hope we can improve for tomorrow.”

Magnussen: “I think today has gone okay, but most importantly the long runs looked decent for me, but I haven’t seen any data or lap times. Barcelona used to be the baseline track for the season, but we have more and more street tracks these days, so these circuits are becoming less and less similar to the average track. In the high-speed sections, we didn’t expect to be that good around here, so I’m excited to see whether we can maintain this level of competitiveness or if it was the circumstances at the time.”

Albon: “FP1 was pretty good. We haven’t gone well in Barcelona historically, but we’ve made some good steps forward compared to last year. Going into FP2, we made a couple of changes to combat issues from FP1, but as the track gripped up, the same issues continued. We’ll revisit overnight and see what we can do to address them. It’s tough to be in P19 and P20, so I’m hoping that the track cools and the wind dies down to help us find a bit more pace.”

Bearman: “It was nice to get back into the VF-24 here in Barcelona. I really enjoyed myself, it was nice to get back-up to speed again in a Formula 1 car and see the capabilities on a track like this, especially with a lot of high-speed corners. We completed the program that we wanted to, which is the main goal, and I felt really happy and confident in the car. I’m already looking forward to the next one in Silverstone.”

Here’s how FP1 of F1 Spanish GP panned out

Here’s how FP2 of F1 Spanish GP panned out

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