What we learned from Friday at the Spanish Grand Prix
We left the Circuit de Catalunya in March expecting Ferrari to dominate Formula 1, but the signs ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix is that Mercedes have turned the tables in Montmelo, after Valtteri Bottas ended Friday practice as the fastest driver on-track.
Team-mate Lewis Hamilton wasn't far behind in FP2 as Mercedes laid down a marker ahead of the weekend.
Both Ferraris are fitted with new power units this weekend, so why are they now behind the Silver Arrows, having dominated at the same track just two months ago?
Mercedes' mistakes masked?
Although Bottas and Hamilton ended the day quickest, neither enjoyed smooth sessions, with Bottas in particular finding grip tricky to come by in FP1 before he eventually put the top lap of the session together.
Hamilton also had issues getting his tyres prepared and was snaking through the corners in the latter sages of FP2 as he ran on worn tyres.
So what of Ferrari? There's every chance that neither Leclerc and Vettel ran in lower engine modes, given the upgrade that has been brought in ahead of schedule.
Having ran slower on one-lap pace, Ferrari were also a good chunk down on race simulations. Time will tell if Ferrari are taking things steady on Friday – at odds with what they have generally done this season – or if Mercedes have managed to open up the gap even further.
Positions 5-8 in FP2 read: Red Bull, Haas, Red Bull, Haas as the American squad showed supreme pace, with Romain Grosjean just a tenth down on Max Verstappen's one-lap pace.
Azerbaijan was the first time this season that Haas had not put both cars into the top 10 in qualifying, and it seems that Saturday could pass with Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen putting some serious pressure on the Red Bulls.
Alas, here come the caveats.
Verstappen suffered an oil leak in FP1, necessitating an engine change for the second session, during which he reported a number of power outages.
Come the long runs, Haas appeared to be as much as a second per lap off Red Bull. If fuel loads and settings are consistent on Sunday, it seems Haas will once again drop down the pack, with tyre wear perhaps coming to the fore once again.
Just a second separated Verstappen in fifth from Lando Norris in 16th, with the midfield once again bunched up.
Racing Point had to deal with Lance Stroll crashing in FP1 and the Canadian ran 13th fastest n the second session, with pre-upgrade parts.
Both struggled badly in Baku last time out, and a failure to improve would continue a frustrating start to the year for a team that had stated an ambition to catch the top three in 2019. So far it appears anything but is on the cards.
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