Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes topped the first free practice session of the season that left as many questions as answers with no clear running order established.
Mercedes cemented their status as the team to beat, recording a one-two as Hamilton ran quickest, and was the driver who completed the most laps, three tenths ahead of Valterri Bottas.
Max Verstappen was Mercedes’ closest challenger but was half a second behind Hamilton, and spun late on in the session – a problem seemingly continuing from the Barcelona tests.
McLaren also had a strong session, completing the most laps, and ended the session fourth and sixth in a very tight midfield pack.
Sergio Perez was fifth in his Racing Point, and half a second separated the next four drivers – to Kevin Magnussen in ninth – with all four from different teams.
The battle will definitely be one to follow throughout the weekend especially with Haas showing signs of a potential resurgence through Magnussen.
However, his teammate Romain Grosjean didn’t have chance to set a competitive lap time due to a brake pedal issue and will have to wait until the afternoon session to measure his pace.
Williams also showed signs that it could be a year of improvement, running similar pace to the Alpha Tauri and Alfa Romeo teams.
George Russell was also involved in the only incident of the session as Pierre Gasly spun exiting the final corner and the Brit had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
Having played down their chances yesterday, with Charles Leclerc saying he was ‘99% sure’ Ferrari would struggle this season, the Scuderia ran tenth and twelfth with Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel which reiterates the feeling they could be off the pace to start the season.
They’ve not brought any significant upgrades since the cancelled Australian Grand Prix, instead focusing on bringing in a ‘B’ spec car later in the season.
Mercedes ran the DAS toe control system that debuted at the Barcelona test earlier this year but there’s talk of an appeal from their rivals, although nothing concrete yet.
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.602|
|5||Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+0.696|
|7||Alex Albon||Red Bull||+0.885|
|11||Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+1.258|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1.544|
|15||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1.549|
|16||Pierre Gasly||Alpha Tauri||+1.588|
|19||Daniil Kvyat||Alpha Tauri||+2.127|