Lewis Hamilton had a tough day at Barcelona during the opening practice session. Mercedes was testing new upgrades, and it was their first proper run on a regular circuit. Hamilton finished 11th overall, over half a second behind Max Verstappen, who set the pace. His teammate, George Russell, was eighth, less than two-tenths quicker than Hamilton. Hamilton acknowledged that a lot of work was needed to get him safely into Q3, with the gap between teams very close.
According to Hamilton, the Alpines and the Aston Martin team were impressive, with improvements all around them. Hamilton found it hard to keep up with the pace as they focused on getting a better lap time for Saturday’s race. Russell was more optimistic, pointing out that Mercedes often struggled on Fridays but made progress on Saturdays and Sundays. The team was not expecting to set the world on fire with its new upgrades and hoped to learn from the info they have to move forward. Russell conceded that other teams, especially the Alpine, looked more competitive on low fuel.
Hamilton agreed with Russell, explaining that Mercedes struggled with its single lap pace more than its long-run form. Hamilton said that Mercedes is not a Friday specialist but that they will work on getting a better lap time on Saturday. Meanwhile, Russell expects that they will have a better Sunday than Saturday as that is what they are gearing up for. Hamilton observed that he cannot get into the top ten with his current pace, but he hopes that with overnight changes, they can make up for the lost time. The competition was tight between Ferrari, Alpine, and Mercedes but with Nico Hulkenberg‘s impressive performance, it could be anyone’s game.