Max Verstappen and Red Bull’s utter domination of the 2023 Formula 1 season rolled on in opening Spanish Grand Prix practice, as the field acclimatised to the revived fast corners at the end of the Barcelona lap and Ferrari’s upgraded car made its debut.
– Verstappen eight tenths clear of Perez up front
– Ocon follows Monaco podium with third-fastest time
– Ferrari runs substantial upgrade on Sainz’s car
– F1 field tries Barcelona for first time since chicane’s removal
The Barcelona track has been revised for this season, with the chicane that has been in place for F1 (MotoGP only used it briefly) since 2007 removed and the old layout of the lap ending with two fast and challenging right-handers revived.
Direct laptime comparisons are not possible because the Turn 10 left-hander at the end of the back straight has been reprofiled since the old layout was last used by F1.
But already even in first practice the last two corners appeared to be very nearly flat-out for many drivers, though there were also reports over team radio of cars bouncing and porpoising in that section in particular.
Ferrari unveiled a substantial upgrade ahead of the session, including significant changes to its sidepod design.
Though it says it has enough of the new parts for both cars to run this weekend, its programme began with just Carlos Sainz using the upgrade while Charles Leclerc stayed in the benchmark older spec.
Leclerc was marginally faster of the two by the end of the session as the two cars finished the hour eighth and ninth.
Up front, Red Bull was peerless throughout, whether running the extra set of revised, stronger construction C1 tyres that teams are trying today ahead of their introduction at the British GP next month or on the softs it quickly switched to, it was a class apart from the rest of the field.
And there was a significant gap between its drivers too. Verstappen’s 1m14.606s benchmark was 0.768s clear of the best that team-mate Sergio Perez could do. Not that Verstappen had a totally smooth session, informing the team that a particular engine mode it tried late on was “****ing terrible”.
Best of the rest behind Red Bull was a surprise: Esteban Ocon’s Alpine in third, ahead of an even bigger surprise – the AlphaTauri of Nyck de Vries in fourth.
Alpine introduced a major upgrade for Monaco last week and came away with a podium for Ocon. Its pace as the Barcelona weekend began bodes well for the potential of those new parts, as Pierre Gasly backed Ocon up in fifth. He also had contact with the Williams of Logan Sargeant at Turn 10 in the final minute, both getting back to the pits with no obvious damage.
Fernando Alonso moved up to sixth for Aston Martin in the closing seconds, ahead of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and the two Ferraris.
Mercedes spent the first part of the session right at the back, doing long runs on the experimental tyres. George Russell eventually made it up to 10th, with Lewis Hamilton 12th behind Lando Norris’s McLaren.
Practice 1 Results
Nyck de Vries|