Charles Leclerc set two best times on training Friday in Barcelona. In the second session, however, George Russell was only a tenth behind the Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton confirmed the good impression made by the Mercedes in third place.
Will the duel between Ferrari and Red Bull in Barcelona become a three-way battle? As in Miami, the Silver Arrows presented themselves as strong as an ox on Friday (May 20). Only Charles Leclerc was able to prevent a double leadership of the German-British world champion team. The Monegasque turned the fastest lap of the day in his qualifying simulation on soft tires in 1:19.670 minutes.
So the modified underbody and the new rear wing on the Ferrari seem to be working. But the upgrades also seem to be bearing fruit at Mercedes. With the new underbody, bouncing has been noticeably reduced. There were also new front wing end plates and modified winglets on the rear wheel carriers.
Even more Mercedes potential
The progress was quickly noticeable in the time table. George Russell was just a tenth off the Leclerc mark. But the Brit didn't want to give the all-clear: "In Miami we were the fastest on Friday. We're second here now. But the car behaves completely differently. We have to analyze the data. But I don't see any reason why we don't should also be a little closer tomorrow."
Lewis Hamilton was another tenth behind in third place, confirming the good Mercedes impression. "The bouncing has gotten much better," said the Briton, relieved. "We can now slowly start to get the potential out of the car. I'm very grateful for the upgrade. Now we have to start fine-tuning. I think we can be even stronger tomorrow."
Behind Carlos Sainz's second Ferrari, Max Verstappen had to settle for fifth place. However, the gap was only three tenths. The third win in a row is not out of reach. "We didn't find the right balance, especially on a fast lap. But it looked pretty good on the long runs," said the world champion with some satisfaction.
Vettel and Schumacher strong
Behind them, Fernando Alonso led the midfield in sixth place. To the delight of the fans, the local hero seems to be a safe contender again. Surprisingly, Sebastian Vettel can also hope for something countable. Behind Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, the man from Heppenheim recorded the eighth fastest time. The B version of the Aston Martin seems to be working. The engineers have yet to gather data with the new package to understand the setup options.
Things also went well for the second German pilot in the field. Mick Schumacher finished tenth behind Esteban Ocon. Haas was surprised that the bouncing had suddenly disappeared. The engineers were able to lower the chassis, which had a positive effect on downforce and lap times.
On the other hand, not much came together for Valtteri Bottas. The Finn coasted to a halt at the end of the home straight after just three laps. The first suspicion pointed to engine damage. Lando Norris also finished early. The McLaren driver damaged the underbody on the curbs of turn 9, which could not be repaired quickly. Norris only got six laps.