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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton heads the Bulls in Spanish F1 practice as Kubica returns
Posted By: Editor   |  11 May 2018   |  5:51 pm GMT  |  87 comments

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton may have registered the fastest lap time, but the top three teams appear to be closely-matched on race pace for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, with Red Bull Racing looking set for their most threatening weekend so far.

With drivers struggling to come to terms with the low-grip conditions at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the fastest lap times could be taken with a pinch of salt.

Hamilton’s best lap of a 1:18.259 was set on the soft tyre, but his effort on the super soft tyre (the fastest available tyre this weekend) yielded an error.

Generally, drivers had difficulty in making major improvements on the super soft tyre; second-placed Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t improve on his earlier soft-tyre effort, which was just over one tenth of a second behind Hamilton.

Daniel Ricciardo was entrusted with many of the revised components on the Red Bull RB14 – something which the team hope will bring “a couple of tenths” of improvement – during free practice one. The team have brought revised front wings and barge boards this weekend but, fortunately for the team, the Australian was using an older-specification front wing when he lost grip and had a low-speed crash at turn four in free practice one.

The second Red Bull of Max Verstappen did improve whilst running the super soft tyre, but his time was still 0.274 away from Hamilton’s time. He was one of several drivers to have at least one off-track moment, with the Dutchman harmlessly spinning at turn two.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was one of the drivers who improved when equipped with the super softs. He was another half-a-tenth behind Verstappen, with the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas close behind after his super soft tyre effort.

“Today was okay. The car balance, I’m reasonably happy with. Overall, I think it’s been a tricky day with the tyres,” summarised Vettel.

“I think we can improve, there’s definitely a little bit more in the car, and a little bit more in me if I get everything together so we should be okay tomorrow. It’s very close, we could be P1 or P6.”

Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth-fastest, but was denied the chance to complete many longer runs after he returned to the pits with a yet-to-be-identified power unit problem.

On the longer runs, the Red Bull’s appeared to be very strong on both the soft and the super soft tyres. On the super soft runs, both of their drivers were lapping in around the mid-1:22’s, with the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers setting times typically a couple of tenths slower.

Despite the Haas duo of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen ending the day as the fourth-fastest team, there were concerns on Grosjean’s side of the garage. He endured a troublesome start to his Spanish Grand Prix weekend as he struggled to overcome the low-grip conditions.

The Frenchman went off-track on a couple of occasions during the opening practice session, before spinning off into the gravel trap in the first few minutes of the afternoon session.

The partially-revised Force Indias and the heavily-revised McLarens were in close contest, occupying positions nine through to twelve on the qualifying simulations.

Wheel attachment issues were highlighted once again in free practice two, this time by the Force India of Sergio Perez.

After leaving the pits, seemingly with all four wheels attached, one wheel came loose half-way around the lap, bringing out the virtual safety car.

The return of Robert Kubica
The first free practice session marked the first time since 2010 that Robert Kubica took part in an official Formula One session.

Completing a free practice session is a small step in his bid to return to the F1 grid. He took over Sergey Sirotkin’s seat for the opening 90 minutes – the very man he was in a shoot-out with for the second Williams seat for this season.

He might have finished ahead of fellow Williams driver Lance Stroll in FP1, but comparisons against Stroll must be taken with a pinch of salt, given that Kubica was running the new parts and Stroll failed to complete the entire session after beaching his car in the gravel on the outside of turn five.

Williams has had a troubled start to the 2018 season and yesterday confirmed that the car’s designer Ed Wood had left the team.

Speaking after free practice one, Kubica gave a damning verdict of the FW41:

“It has been a difficult session for us, with difficult balance. It’s how we were expecting it to be, but not this bad. It was a bit of a shock for me.

“I felt embarrassed when I was driving inside the car.

“I felt comfortable, but it’s difficult to be comfortable in such a difficultly-balanced car to drive, and with difficult conditions. I think I did as I was asked and I’m happy with what I delivered.”

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.259s – 39
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m18.392s 0.133s 41
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m18.533s 0.274s 39
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m18.585s 0.326s 34
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m18.611s 0.352s 39
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m18.829s 0.570s 16
7 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m19.579s 1.320s 24
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m19.643s 1.384s 39
9 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m19.722s 1.463s 32
10 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m19.962s 1.703s 28
11 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m20.024s 1.765s 38
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m20.035s 1.776s 35
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m20.183s 1.924s 43
14 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m20.373s 2.114s 32
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m20.501s 2.242s 37
16 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m20.514s 2.255s 29
17 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m20.672s 2.413s 31
18 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m21.265s 3.006s 34
19 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m21.556s 3.297s 35
20 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m22.060s 3.801s 36

All images: Motorsport Images

Who do you think is looking strong in Barcelona so far? Leave your comments in the section below.

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Back during testing I put a post in saying I reckon pole for the Spanish grand prix would be high 1.15. You said not a chance. They were only 2 tenths off. 😉


I know, amazing. Good call


I love stats, it’s no secret. From the first 4 races, these are some interesting stats:

Poles – VET 3, HAM 1

Laps Led Percentage – VET 62.6%, BOT 17.6%, HAM 11.7%

Obviously if that Laps Led percentage stat held for the entire year, then Hamilton would have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. There’s never been as great a difference between the points leader, and the Laps Led leader, as that, over a season. It’s even more peculiar because Seb has finished every race. You would expect a couple of late-race DNF’s to explain that disparity.


Speed, gear, brakes and throttle data displayed onboard in a rainbow neatly covering the curvature of the halo bar – it’s there to stay it would seem. Onboard coverage during FP just kept showing this massive virtual intrusion of the real camera view. I know we’re heading for a combined real/virtual world all around us but this is too much too early. It’s not even the mega dials, it’s the blue colour covering the entire inside of the halo. The interior of EVERY car has now become blue, regardless of the halo actually being red, white, pink, grey or black. Only the McLaren allows some of its all-pervasive orange to shine through. Data-augmented reality, fine. Data embedded in virtual picture distorting reality, no. Certainly not if the distortion covers 40% of the picture plus the very colour of the car perceived. What’s next, reality-augmented virtuality?


The so called “halo” is a bit like wheelspin. The more you try to make it better the worse you end up making it. Best to just accept it and ride it out, or try your best to not induce it in the first place.

My question is: where were they when they had the opportunity to not induce it in the first place?


Good to see Kubica back, complaining or not. Not good to see Ferrari now wearing Elton John halo/mirror spectacles.


Elon John thong. Now that’s an image is rather forget, but won’t be able to.


Engine change already for KR after just 4 races, aren’t they supposed to last 7?

And it was Ferrari that pushed hard for this rule of 4 engines per season!


Its precautionary. The engine will go back to the pool if ok.

And Ferrari did not push for the 4 engine rule – but they didn’t want to backtrack on it before the season, as it directly benefits Mercedes.


4?! Luxury!

Now it’s at 2.5 effectively … you’re allowed 3 ICE / MGU-H / Turbo, but only 2 MGU-K, Energy Store, and Control Electronics.

Fernando had to take a 2nd turbo as well.

Ferrari say that Kimi’s components aren’t fried, and that they might be kept in his pool for later. They just need to look them over.

It is too low an allocation for 21 races. It’s not like the engine manufacturers aren’t going through the engines on the test bench. It’s just that a great many never sit in the back of a race car. They should either up the allocation, or make the penalties for using additional components not as heavy (e.g. 3 spots per component, instead of the current 5).


If we didn’t all know before, yesterday clearly demonstrated that Williams should have hired Kubica . How embarrassing that Williams’ reserve driver is so much quicker than their actual drivers.

I reckon a front row start will be vital if you want to win on Sunday bearing in mind just how difficult it is to overtake round here.


Money talks and bulls**t walks.


Development- wise they big question is, will Kimi also get that extra speed paddle device.. What is that called, push whenever Kimi is faster then you paddle…


Eventually you will come round to the fact that Kimi just can’t keep up


Barcelona is a great city but the circuit is an awful track, will never produce good racing. If Mercedes ca’t get their speed up there, and tyres working, then one can expect they will be worried for real, but I expect (read hope) a close fight. But no hopes of an exiting race thought, if they can’t deploy the safety car a couple of times.


Kubica is quicker than both Stroll and Sirotkin. It’s very difficult to argue to the contrary now.

Time for Williams to make a decision that’s consistent with this fact.


They probably cannot dispense with either driver as they could not afford to repay the money. There is also the likely matter of refunding Kubicas insurance payout if he does a race as Frank wont want to foot that bill.


Kubica is way faster than Stroll and Sirotkin, but his onboard picture showed a disturbing detail. When the steering wheel is turned way left he will sometimes let go of it with his feeble right arm and replace his hand UNDERNEATH it. Then, he starts pulling with his left hand and pushing with his right. Risky if something happens and an immediate reaction is required. A technique maybe suitable for handling a cross tyre wrench but not a steering wheel. Has it been established he is able to endure a serious number of laps?


It has been established that he is able to operate a current f1 car safety even prior to Abu Dhabi last year.

Yesterday it was established that he is able to operate a current f1 car nearer to its limits than both stroll and Sirotkin.


Thanks for establishing that!


It didn’t really need to be established. I don’t think there should be any doubts that a driver who sits in an f1 car for the first time in months and laps 1.5 sec faster than the regular race drivers is able to operate the car.


I read that Pirelli have reduced the depth of tread/compound on the Super-soft by 0.4mm for this race.

Given that 98.3% of commentary on F1 is about tyres, how is it that Pirelli can make changes from race to race, but any other decision to change anything needs to go through the process and face veto and must be signed off by April 1 three years ago or it has to wait until next season? Seems to be one rule for FIA and FOM and another for Pirelli. Why is it so?


Ask Mercedes. They pushed for this change.


What do you call a man with a wooden head? Ed Wood

What do you call a man with three wooden heads? Edward Woodward

An oldie but a goodie!


“Williams car designer Ed Wood” – Seriously?! No wonder the car is a dud, hahahaha


Was Paddy Lowe not brought in to design the car? this highlights the extent to which F1 is a team of talented people rather than the hero at the helm which there may be but they need back up.

Hoping Paddy can carry it forwards but it must paint a bleak prospect for the year if the chassis is that bad..


Mc’Laren nose, to me it looks like a combination of RedBull & Mercedes nose solution. I hope this will give them strength to fight at the front……. I like the idea of Ferrari to add additional winglet on halo. Kubica nice to see u back this gye delivering every chance he got, not wise words to mention car performance but we can see clearly that is the case. Williams have worst car in the grid which gave breathing space to their drivers. Kmag moving towards race ban he really has to think about his drive now.


Expect Ferrari to pour on the coal tomorrow. FP2 really means nothing. Even FP3 doesn’t mean much. Qualifying and real racing matters more now that no one is doing a true qualifying run until q2.


What to make of the FP1 & 2 ? The top three certainly look firmly entrenched but who is sandbagging and who is not? Ferrari are typical, no real shows, on a Friday and their best is yet to come…today. The Red Bulls are close as expected and they will be right in there come race day, all things being as equal as they can possibly be. Given that the latest statements by Horner and his puppet master, they, RB, have finally sheeted home the responsibility for Baku at the feet of ‘die wunderbar kinder’ and not before time. Will it make things any easier….i have no real idea but i do doubt it. Just how far Verstappen would take it is anyones guess. Red Bull are not going to sanction him, not after they’ve put all their eggs in the Dutch handbasket

I really want Ricciardo to take the win, if possible, to make up for his demise in Baku.


Ha, it seems Wehrlein’s career will be less hurt by a year in DTM than it would be driving Williams.


Again, hoping for the “successful Haas Team” to do well !!


Totally unrelated but… what the heck Liberty Media & Co is thinking in dumbing down f1 AND increasing the costs?

Getting rid of:
1. MGU-H which is the core of technology; NO ONE of the engine manufacturer likes that. Reason? More noise? That sounds (no pun intended) stupid.

2. And next year dumbing down aero? I understand is a major component on costs but the solutions are as Horner said solutions are quite immature…
plus with all these changes next years car will be like 2 second slower than now so a F2 car will be faster than a F1?
If you want to contain costs you can limit aero by indicating how many changes you can do on the car per year or just in some areas…
If F1 goes to retro technology what’s the point?


What’s the point? So that the majority of fans get what they want i.e. noisier cars that allow the drivers to race.

Manufacturers are spoiling F1 by shear engineering genius. Too calculated by far in all manners.


Amazingly, the teams agreed to the aero changes – well, 40% of them did.

About the MGU-H – it will have a huge impact performance wise.

None of this was done for cost-containment – that’s a red herring. Its a misguided and politically driven attempt to level the playing field.


@ Redline…If that is the case why did Aston Martin, Cosworth and Porsche make their possible entry contingent on the MGU H being removed? I read that as simply being the exorbitant costs associated with developing a bespoke unit by each individual team. Remember that Mercedes were vehemently against this unit becoming a standardised component similar to the ECU.


The reported ridiculous costs associated with the MGU H is the reason why it’s going to be dumped. This then meets the objective of encouraging independent engine builders back to F1, thus breaking the stranglehold of the current crop. That has to be good for F1. The second point i’d like to make is that by doing away with it does not mean that it’s in any way ‘retro’. If a simpler way can be found to maintain/possibly improve the speed, lift the sound and close the disparate competitiveness between teams is possible then that is the way forward. The fact remains that no one actually knows what the final specs will be but Ross Brawn has already stated that the current ‘engines’ the wrong way to go for F1 and i happen to agree with that. I recently read a really good assessment of F1 and it was stated to be a ‘fuel flow regulated series’ That about sums it up. That is not what F1 should be, IMO.


Hmmm… Wasn’t Ross Brawn instrumental in the development of the mighty Mercedes PU? As I recall he did not really want to leave Mercedes but was outflanked by Wolff and Lauda. Revenge is a dish best served cold!

Tornillo Amarillo

6 drivers for pole and win, very exciting this race.

I would like Max winning after all his dramas this year… well no, Lewis would be better!

Renault seems to go backward… pas facile…


Anybody tried the new F1 TV Pro today? I purchaed the sibscription but the performance of Tv was a disaster for me. Buffering all the time, skipping. Will cancel it tomorrow. Looks like super early days for this service. Not fair to ask money for something that doesnt work


Hi AlexD, I have exactly the same experience! I signed up for the full first year at Pro-level to maximize the 10% discount they offered in your first purchase and get the unedited team radio chatter and access to all the onboard cameras. But what a disappointment…

Image often in low resolution and repeatedly staggering, pixelating or frozen for longer periods. And this was just during free practice sessions of the F1 race. How will they cope with more users logging on for the qualifier or the race itself???

I called their tech support who mainly just focused on that my own Internet line much be the reason. Now it so happens that I for professional reasons have a special line coming into my household, which is also monitored for performance/redundancy reasons and part of this we also have extra level loading lines, so having more than 100Mb/s, latency below 12mS and no packet loss. Having ability to stream live 5 simultaneous UHD channels without a glitch. I gave the poor F1 TV Pro techie a copy of the tracert reports that I ran and they lead straight back into their own Internet server hosting center before the latency peaked up and packet losses appeared.

He never offered the options to get refunded, but lets see how it performs today during Qualification and tomorrow at the race.

Personally I was btw also negatively surprised that you can only see live on one device at a time. Clearly I must have gotten some of their earlier statements wrong? As I had planned myself to have the generic race feed on my big screen and then for 2 smaller screens next to, with select onboard cameras for the couple of drivers I wanted to follow at any given point of time during the race. Quite disappointed that this clearly is not possible as it is right now and when reading the small print in the contract, it will never be… (ok, you can do image in image on one device, but its not the same at all as having separate screens live at same time with different feeds)


I found many reports on-line indicating quality of the feed. It is the same for all people. In my case it is 130 MBP/s LTE. Called their support and was told that they know there is an issue on their side. I just cancelled my subscription and got an eMail notification about the refund. Well done F1! This is the right way to engage with the fans. They should have allowed for free service for the first couple of races until they are sure that it will work properly.


What sort of ‘net connection do you have? I wouldn’t go for that sort of service unless it was over fiber or maybe LTE.

And I’d hope that the people selling the service made some of statement about what you require to enjoy the service.


F1 TV Pro say in their specs when you sign up that you need to have minimum linespeed of 7Mb/s downstream, ideally up to 10 Mb/s to ensure you can see their provided contents at full resolution and live feed without stuttering/pixelation. And the 10Mb/s is actually very much in line with what other online digital tv providers put as requirements as well for receiving their channels in HD format.
(Netflix is actually just asking for 5Mb/s for a HD channel, but it has to be perfect then with no latency variation or packet loss)


130 MBP/s LTE. Nothing to do with my connection. It is a well know issue on their side. I just cancelled my subscription.


Thanks for the warning – was going to try it today/tomorrow, but in this case will wait till its better resolved.


I had the same issue. Buffering like crazy…


Yeah never become an early adopter of something not proven.


I purchased it but traveling just now so won’t see it until Sunday the race. I suspected it would be buggy at first… surprised we didn’t hear about beta testing honestly – or that the first race or two might be free to try (and this less painful if free).

Tornillo Amarillo

Williams… yesterday confirmed that the car’s designer Ed Wood had left the team.

Could he take the car with him?

Could Williams be inside of the 107% for qualify?

This is a disaster, but in China practice Sirotkin was doing OK and Stroll scored in Baku, so maybe the car is bad -as Kubica said too- but new directions to fix it are worst…

Williams, time to think again, or hiring a consultant as a plan “B” (“B” from “Benz”…).


The modern version of the 107% rule won’t affect Williams no matter how slow they go. If they’re outside 107% the stewards will only bar them from the race if they feel it presents a safety issue, they’ve only done that to Hispania/HRT (twice!) since the 107% was returned. A few drivers have missed the cut for various reasons in the last ten years and they’ve all been allowed to race based on Free Practice and previous race performance.


If they do miss the cut it will be a colossal humiliation for Williams though.


when is frank gonna wake up and realise his little girl has no idea


He should give his son Jonathan a go. The poor guy is wasting away as an archivist, or whatever, in the Williams museum. I mean what would be the harm? Surely it can’t get much worse than this given that there is no longer pre qalifying and everybody is pretty much guaranteed a race start.


She didn’t draw the car and Frank never had much say over the design process, rightly leaving it to people who knew what they were doing.

That car is a dud, and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. The person who looks to have not met expectations is Lowe. He could be forgiven for last year’s car, but this one was started and bought to the track on his watch.


Didn’t Lowe just pass the hot potato to Ed Wood? Oh, that’s right, he’s a shareholder now, so he can’t get axed…


She didn’t know that Kubica was quicker than Sirotkin and stroll? I did.


I think I’ll just wait until Sunday 😉


I wish Kubica all the best. But comments like that might not improve his chance for a seat at Williams. For the rest, mhm, lets see tomz. Qualifying might be a better time to judge where the teams stand atm.


Being honest without bashing the team doesn’t exactly hurt his position either. Everyone else around him sounds like suger coating robots


“But comments like that might not improve his chance for a seat at Williams”

I always got the impression that Frank was a no BS kind of guy – Maybe he’d appreciate hearing it straight, and if it helps to sort the car so much the better.

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