Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in action during practice at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, May 20, 2022. — Reuters pic
Friday, 20 May 2022 11:17 PM MYT
MONTMELO, May 20 — Championship leader Charles Leclerc topped the times ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz as Ferrari produced a strong one-two finish in today’s opening practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old Monegasque clocked a best lap in one minute and 19.828 seconds to outpace local hero Sainz by 0.079 seconds with world champion Max Verstappen third for Red Bull three-tenths adrift.
George Russell was fourth for an improved Mercedes, encouraged by the performance of their upgrades package, ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Alpine and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.
Lando Norris was seventh for McLaren ahead of Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, Daniel Ricciardo in the second McLaren and Yuki Tsunoda in the second Alpha Tauri.
On a very warm morning in the industrial hinterland, 20km north of the Catalan capital, the air temperature was 28 degrees and the track 40 before the opening session began.
The return to Europe saw most teams introducing a range of upgrade packages for their cars, only Haas choosing to delay longer, with McLaren, Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo appearing with the most modifications.
Three teams also ran with reserve drivers in action — Robert Kubica at Alfa Romeo replacing Zhou Guanyu, Nyck de Vries in for Alex Albon at Williams and Juri Vips replacing Sergio Perez at Red Bull.
It suggested a fresh start to the season under wide blue skies, but the order remained much the same with Ferrari and Red Bull jostling at the front, but with Mercedes, notably, showing improved form with less “porpoising”.
Verstappen and Leclerc posted the early fastest times before Sainz intervened, delighting a big Friday crowd for his home event, with a best lap of one minute and 19.907 on softs to go top after 32 minutes.
Five minutes later, Leclerc responded to take the leading spot in 1:19.828 ahead of Ferrari team-mate Sainz, Verstappen in third and Russell fourth. Alonso split the two Mercedes for fifth, leaving Hamilton sixth with five minutes remaining.
Hamilton had survived a bumpy ride across a kerb and gravel to avoid the 40-year-old Spaniard, who was running slowly, an incident that was declared under investigation by the stewards.
After his earlier criticism of the standards of stewarding in Miami and elsewhere this season, Alonso may have been concerned that he might face a reaction to his comments. — AFP