Red Bull led the way from start to finish in the opening practice hour for the Spanish GP, the Milton Keynes squad delivering a crushing blow to Mercedes and Ferrari’s recent upgrades.
Although Mercedes delivered a heavily updated W14 in Monaco and Ferrari followed suit in Spain, neither team was able to take the fight to Red Bull in FP1 at the Barcelona circuit.
Max Verstappen finished top of the timesheet with Sergio Perez second and Esteban Ocon third fastest.
As for Ferrari, Charles Leclerc in the old spec SF-23 was three-tenths faster than Carlos Sainz in the new spec while at Mercedes, George Russell was P1o to Lewis Hamilton’s P12 with both drivers over 1.1s down on Verstappen’s P1 time.
Running new prototype tyres for Pirelli, and new parts, for Ferrari and Aston Martin, Friday’s practice got underway under a sense of anticipation as the crowd waited to see whether their leading Spaniards, Sainz and Fernando Alonso, could take the fight to Red Bull.
From the get-go, they were off the pace.
Championship leader Verstappen started his weekend’s running with a 1:17.425 with his team-mate Perez in second place, only to up his pace lap after lap to a 1:15.9 to extend his advantage to almost five-tenths.
Behind them Nico Hulkenberg was third in the early running ahead of Yuki Tsunoda and Ocon. “I’m starting to bounce as I go into the final corner,” complained Perez while Verstappen told Red Bull he too was bumping. That was the result of a bump in the final corner.
For those testing new parts, Hamilton was seventh, 2.2s down, while Sainz, running the new Ferrari parts in a back-to-back test with his team-mate Leclerc, was a further 0.04s back. As Sainz whipped into the pits for his first stop of the session for new tyres, the flo-vis paint on his upgraded Ferrari was evident with the Spaniard covering 15 laps in the first 20 minutes.
As the Spaniard continued to lay down the laps, Sainz worked his way up to P6, the Ferrari driver a second down on pace-setter Verstappen. Pierre Gasly was P2 ahead of Perez and Alonso.
With new soft Pirellis on his RB19, Verstappen blitzed the benchmark time with a 1:14.6 with Perez up to second but a whopping seven-tenths down on his team-mate.
Ferrari returned to the pits with Sainz P9, two places and one tenth up on his team-mate Leclerc who was running the old configuration of the car.
Sticking a set of new softs on the two Ferraris, Sainz jumped to third place but was still over a second down on Verstappen’s best. He was then pipped by Leclerc, running the old-spec SF-23, by 0.03s.
As the session entered its final 10 minutes the track temperature dropped as the cloud cover gathered overhead. Ocon moved up to third place in the Alpine with Nyck de Vries in the AlphaTauri putting in a 1:15.5 to go fourth.
The session ended with Verstappen P1 by 0.768s ahead of Perez with Ocon a further 0.05s back. Gasly and Logan Sargeant had a moment late in the session as the Alpine went up the inside of the Williams but Sargeant didn’t see him.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:14.606
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.768
3 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.812
4 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +0.898
5 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.939
6 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.941
7 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.083
8 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +1.088
9 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +1.120
10 George RUSSELL Mercedes +1.147
11 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.177
12 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +1.239
13 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1.300
14 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.309
15 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.333
16 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.372
17 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.747
18 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +1.855
19 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.900
20 Alexander ALBON Williams +2.024