Barcelona brings Formula 1 back to a permanent circuit after five races held on street circuits. The first free practice session of the Spanish GP has become an occasion for tests and experiments: we have seen many cars with sensor rakes or with flow viz paint for aerodynamic tests.
Pirelli brought the Prototype tires that will make their debut from the Silverstone GP, so we experienced an interlocutory session, not even having any comparison times after the Montmelò circuit was deprived of the last chicane in favor of a curve very fast to go almost in full.
Red Bull immediately put its cards on the table with Max Verstappen. The world champion shot an extraordinary 1’14″606 on the reds (the simulations indicate pole position at 1’13″8!) before starting a mini long run on the softs that left all the competition light years away .
Sergio Perez is second, but the Mexican pays 768 thousandths from his captain on equal terms. The Red Bulls play a separate sport, even if the South American driver seems to be attackable: Esteban Ocon, hero of Monte Carlo, is third with the Alpine which confirms its agile not only in the Principality. The Frenchman lapped in 1’15″418, preceding Nyck De Vries with the AlphaTauri by just 86 thousandths. With the arrival in the European races, the Dutchman seems to have overcome the difficult moment that seemed to question his place in Faenza The risk now seems to have returned.
The Frisian slipped the AT04 between the two Alpines, given that Pierre Gasly is fifth with the other A523 that arrived in Spain without updates, but with decidedly interesting potential. The Iberians flocked to see Fernando Alonso, but the Asturian with Aston Martin is only sixth, almost a second behind Verstappen. The Spaniard was not happy with the behavior of his “verdona” and spent some time understanding the new Pirelli tyres, so his performance cannot be judged.
And the reference cannot be sought from Lance Stroll only 15th with the second AMR23, so we will have to wait for the second round to better understand the values, since there were big differences in fuel loads and engine mappings.
Kevin Magnussen with the Haas is seventh with the first Ferrari-powered single-seater. The reds are eighth and ninth at over a second. In front is the standard SF-23 of Charles Leclerc, followed by the Ferrari equipped with the new aerodynamic package brought to its debut by Carlos Sainz. Let’s say the old one was 32 thousandths faster than the new one. And let’s not hide the fact that we would have expected to see the car with sloping bellies immediately faster than the other.
It wasn’t like that, but the Prancing Horse team didn’t look for performance, but rather an effective back-to-back to evaluate the potential of Ferrari, which repudiated the excavation on the side to meet the dictates of Red Bull.
We waited for the changes for months and we were counting on seeing a clear difference right away: that wasn’t the case, but it’s possible that the technicians wanted to proceed very step by step in discovering the new red. Let’s wait for the second session before triggering any alarm: Leclerc should also have the news in the afternoon. We will see…
Even the Mercedes did not shine: George Russell with the W14 equipped with bellies is tenth immediately behind Sainz, while Lewis Hamilton did not go beyond 12th position. The two Stella drivers spent a lot of time gathering information with the Pirelli C1 Prototypes, so much so that Lando Norris with the McLaren slipped between the two black arrows.
Guanyu Zhou is 13th with Alfa Romeo which wants to capitalize on the innovations it brings to Monte Carlo: the Chinese has trimmed three tenths off Valtteri Bottas only 16th: the Finn does not meet the expectations of the team from Hinwil.
Yuki Tsunoda is 14th with the AlphaTauri: the Japanese carried out a very different work program from De Vries, more aimed at the race than at the single lap. Cautious approach for Oscar Piastri with McLaren which has remained with the celebratory livea of the triple crown.
Nico Hulkenberg with the second Haas is 18th: the German also worked for the race so he is only placed behind the two Williams who close the grid with a gap of a couple of seconds: this time the rear light is Alexander Albon behind to Logan Sargeant.