F1: Mercedes drivers Bottas, Hamilton pace 1st practice session in Spain

F1: Mercedes drivers Bottas, Hamilton pace 1st practice session in Spain

F1: Mercedes drivers Bottas, Hamilton pace 1st practice session in Spain

Kimi Raikkonen finished in fourth place for Ferrari, ahead of the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

Their performance was similar to their one in Australia, where Hamilton proved ominously dominant.

Bottas said: "It was close, like it has been all week". It is a shame it is only four-hundredths, but it is good for the team.

"If this weekend, we happen to get on top of the issues we have with the vehicle and start to be more consistent, then I will be a lot happier because I know then I can punch either at my weight or a little bit above".

A good starting position is crucial in Spain as there are not many overtaking opportunities.

Ferrari, unexpectedly, were pushed back to fifth and seventh, 0.7 and 1.7 seconds adrift respectively with Ricciardo third for Red Bull before the final runs when Hamilton delivered his stunner. "We can still work on the vehicle and I think we should be stronger tomorrow".

On race pace, again, it looks fairly close at the front. Bottas was soon going fastest before Hamilton topped the times after half an hour.

Most teams brought significant updates to Barcelona, which marks the beginning of the European season in F1.

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Frenchman Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10 for Haas. "So that's a positive thing". Though the new long-haul races have made a huge contribution to the economics of Formula One, they have done little to augment the atmosphere.

Nico Hulkenberg of Renault failed to make it past the first qualifying session because of an apparent fuel pressure issue.

There was some disquiet with the rear-view mirrors Ferrari mounted on the halos, with motorsport governing body FIA looking into a possible breach of regulations.

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso believes McLaren have a "realistic" shot of reaching Q3 for the first time this season after the team debuted an extensive upgrade package for the Spaniard's home race. The vehicle spun and hit the barrier while rolling backward, although any damage appeared to be restricted to the right rear corner of the auto.

Canadian teenager Lance Stroll continued his travails with the hard Williams auto and was off into the gravel at Turn Four, but recovered to return to the pits soon before Vettel went fastest on new "super-softs". The rear end fell apart as the vehicle was being hoisted by a crane.

Q2 was all about strategy for the front-runners as the majority set their fastest times on the soft compound to ensure they start on that tire.

Stroll almost hit the tire barriers after going off the track with about a half-hour left in the session. However, the first signs of trouble became apparent during the second practice session on Friday.

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