Alonso and Sainz start discreetly and Red Bull dominates the first free practice sessions in Montmeló


The Dutch driver Max Verstappen and the Mexican Sergio Pérez gave Red Bull a double in the first contact with the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, in the first free practice of the Spanish Grand Prix, where the locals Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) and Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) were discreet, sixth and ninth respectively, in a peculiar session.

Verstappen led the first free practice session this Friday that started hot but promises, for the second round, some “weather fun” in the form of possible rain. For now, Red Bull is starting this Spanish GP strong where they are clear favorites to win, one or the other.

With a 1:14.606, the Dutchman surpassed his teammate Sergio Pérez by 768 thousandths, who could not reach the great time set by the World Cup leader. In a calm batch, without red flags or outstanding incidents, the focus was on seeing if someone could disturb a Verstappen who soon set the pace to follow.

It was a rare session, with no great times beyond Verstappen’s, and with the feeling that the teams were more dedicated to investigating the potential of the improvements brought to Barcelona than looking for performance. A lot of experimental rubber, a lot of soft rubber too, but few conclusions to draw for Saturday and the race on Sunday.

According to what has been seen in this Grand Prix start, the hypothetical second row would be formed by the Frenchman Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and the Dutchman Nyck de Vries (AlphaTauri). Something unexpected that will surely change with the passing of the batches. Fifth was Pierre Gasly, with the other Alpine.

And behind his former car, the Spanish Fernando Alonso signed the sixth best time of the session with his Aston Martin, 941 thousandths of a second behind Verstappen and being the only one to be below the second best time. The Danish Kevin Magnussen (Haas), seventh, was already 1,083 behind Verstappen.

Like Alonso, neither did the two Ferraris squeeze the car, nor Charles Leclerc, eighth, nor the Spanish Carlos Sainz, ninth, at 1,088 and 1,120 respectively from the Dutch Red Bull. Smooth round of tests and fine-tuning, with a small scare included for the man from Madrid, who went on a partial gravel excursion in the final part.

George Russell (Mercedes), Lando Norris (McLaren) and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) stayed in the wake of the Ferraris, in Free Practice 1 where the drivers tested the new layout of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, without the famous ‘chicane’ before the main straight and he claims to be faster. We will have to wait to see it.