(Image source; Reuters/ Albert Gea)
Valtteri Bottas led the way in the first free practice session of the Spanish Grand Prix as Mercedes looked to put down an early marker for rivals Ferrari.
The Finn pipped teammate Lewis Hamilton by 0.849s with Sebastian Vettel a further tenth of a second back. Significantly, the Silver Arrows were running of soft tyres while the Prancing horses set their times on the supersofts.
Max Verstappen ran on mediums but still split the Ferraris while fellow Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo’s session was ended early after a crash on Turn Four.
Despite being used to the surface in Barcelona, several drivers struggled for grip with Bottas, Vettel and Marcus Ericsson all spinning early on before Brendon Hartley and Romain Grosjean both ploughed through the gravel at Turn Four.
While they both came through with their cars still intact, Daniel Ricciardo was not so fortunate. The Aussie lost grip, dived into the gravel and then struck the barrier, pausing the session.
Following the virtual safety car, both Williams’ drivers also lost contact with the tarmac. Robert Kubica, making his first F1 appearance in seven years, spun at Turn 13 before Lance Stroll parked his car in the gravel at Turn Five.
Following a second virtual safety car, the Ferraris moved into third and fourth before Max Verstappen bisected the two.
Fernando Alonso was next in his updated McLaren ahead of Ricciardo in seventh. Romain Grosjean, Stoffel Vandoorne and Pierre Gasly made up the top 10.