Home Sports Max Verstappen splits Mercedes as Valtteri Bottas edges Lewis Hamilton in Barcelona FP1

Max Verstappen splits Mercedes as Valtteri Bottas edges Lewis Hamilton in Barcelona FP1

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Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas outpaced team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in first practice ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, as the Finn looks to add a new spin to the title fight.

Bottas, who called any suggestion that his seat at Mercedes was under threat as ‘bulls**t’, set a 1:18.504s, with Verstappen dangerously close just 0.033s behind in the opening session of the weekend.

Seven-time world champion Hamilton was a further tenth behind in the second Mercedes.

But it wasn’t a clean session for Bottas, after a close encounter with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jnr, who held up the Finn at the chicane, forcing him wide and onto the grass.

“Nice one. Got properly blocked there,” said Bottas on his radio as he rejoined.

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The only red flag of the session came from Alfa Romeo’s reserve driver Robert Kubica, in his first FP1 outing of the year – however he spun off and beached it bringing out the red flag.

Mercedes, who are looking for an eighth consecutive title, come leading the Constructors’ standings and Drivers’ standings, with Hamilton leading the way by eight points.

But it could’ve been more, had Verstappen’s small, but key errors not occurred in the past three races.

“In terms of overall output through the weekend, we’ve done a better job,” Hamilton said. “We have a good package but it has weak areas which we are working on.

“You’re seeing the closest battle you’ve seen for some time. Max is performing exceptionally well. He has a championship-winning car and team without a doubt who can really pull off the job this year if we don’t do our job.”

“We are keeping our heads down and working away.

“From my side, I am really happy with the output so far. You are always trying to raise the bar and make as few mistakes as possible. But they have been there and I am grateful because you learn from them, but there are 20 races to go.”

Verstappen said: “I always try to get the best possible results out of it. I went twice outside off the track limits where it cost me basically a pole and a fastest lap but it’s also because I don’t settle for second or third.

“It is exciting and I am looking forward to every single battle. We finally have a car which is capable of having good results every weekend, whether that is first or third or second it will depend on the track.

“It is really enjoyable. So far we have had some good results. I am happy, things can always go better but from both sides, from the car or myself. It is never good enough even if I would have won three races so far.”



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