FP2: Bottas beats Hamilton as Mercedes put Ferrari in the shade
It’s advantage Mercedes at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with championship leader Valtteri Bottas confirming his supreme opening practice pace with an even quicker tour in Free Practice 2 to beat team mate Lewis Hamilton and leave the Ferraris three-tenths of a second adrift.
Ferrari, who looked so strong in Spain during pre-season testing and who are running a heavily updated car that includes a new spec engine, appeared very much in the fight with Mercedes in FP1, the scarlet SF90s just over a tenth adrift. But Mercedes, also running an extensive aerodynamic update package, stretched their legs in the afternoon to expand their advantage.
Charles Leclerc got closest, 0.301s off the pace, with team mate Sebastian Vettel – who ran wide onto the gravel on the exit of Turn 12 on his quickest soft tyre run – a fraction behind in fourth. The duo held a healthy gap back to Red Bull, with Max Verstappen a quarter of a second slower than Bottas.
Haas had high hopes of bouncing back from a dreadful start to their 2019 campaign, after showing an eye-catching turn of pace in pre-season testing, and the VF-19 – which Romain Grosjean described as “pretty much a brand new car” so extensive were the upgrades for Barcelona – looked menacing.
Grosjean was sixth quickest, 0.869s off the pace, with team mate Kevin Magnussen, who was heavily baulked by Leclerc on his flying lap, eighth – the duo sandwiching the other Red Bull of Pierre Gasly and looking like the midfield leaders so far in Barcelona.
Carlos Sainz, who has finished in the points every time he has contested an F1 race on home soil, was ninth in the lead McLaren with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat closing out the top 10.
After crashing in the closing stages of FP1, Racing Point did a sterling job to get Lance Stroll back out on track with an hour of the session to go. Unfortunately, he was forced to run a series of older parts because there wasn’t enough time to fix some of the damaged new parts, but the team hopes to have a fully updated car again on Saturday.
The session passed largely without incident, Robert Kubica’s spin on cold tyres when he was about to start a flying lap the biggest drama, with almost all teams able to gather plenty of data on their update package as well as on the long runs, as part of their preparations of Sunday’s race.