Lewis Hamilton faster than Valtteri Bottas in Spanish Grand Prix first practice

Hamilton finished a distant and curious fourth in Sochi to fall 13 points behind Vettel in the title race, but the triple world champion was back on top of the order at the Circuit de Catalunya ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Vettel, a four-time world champion, is 13 points clear of Mercedes' triple title victor Lewis Hamilton after the German won in Australia and Bahrain.

Last year's victor Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who triumphed on his debut for Red Bull, was fifth fastest ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen and his Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg of Renault and Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso.

But that the Silver Arrows improvements have worked so quickly may leave their rivals concerned that they will dominate for the rest of the season, as they have for the previous three years. A new power unit will be fitted for second practice, although the battery and control electronics will remained unchanged.

Ferrari set the early pace with Kimi Raikkonen on a 1:23.143 but he was soon down to second as Bottas edged him by 0.081s. "I know the team is working extremely hard to get to the bottom of our recent problems, and I am hopeful we can have a smooth race and a weekend with very few issues".

The team had also been hoping for a big step up with aerodynamic upgrades, and ended the day with Verstappen 0.636 slower than Hamilton. I don't think anybody else could go to WRC and perform at the level he did, just come back and be right up to the pace again.

"I think we've definitely grown from the experience, both having a win, having a fast vehicle and obviously having a auto that struggled in so many areas".




"I'm not happy", Vettel said.

"I hope the upgrade will give us a chance to really fight with Mercedes and Ferrari or at least get us closer", said Ricciardo, who finished only two races this season. "I didn't get everything together but I can feel the vehicle is quick so that's good".

"I think it's been always like that in F1, but now that our vehicle with Ferrari is so equal small things like tyres [can decide the outcome]".

The difficulties faced by Valtteri Bottas during the Bahrain Grand Prix resulted in a team-order to allow Lewis Hamilton through, reigniting the debate over number one and number two drivers.

"Today was quite a shocker, if you look at the long runs", he said.

Gear up for the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend with our latest betting preview over at the Betsafe site. "I don't think anyone in history has brought their dog to a (F1) press conference, but I like to do things differently". Generally, the tyres feel a bit hard - I don't know why.

"I'm happy with what we brought, some of the stuff you can see, some of the stuff you will not see". Fluid was seen leaking from the bottom of his auto when it returned to the pits and he completed just 10 laps on the hard tyres.

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