Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2021

Bottas edges Verstappen, then has near-miss with Sainz

2021 Spanish Grand Prix first practice

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There was little to choose between Mercedes and Red Bull in the first practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix, as Valtteri Bottas led Max Verstappen by just three-hundredths of a second.

But the Mercedes driver was unimpressed following a close run-in with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jnr, who got in his way at the chicane, forcing the Mercedes onto the grass.

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

Nikita Mazepin started the session with an error between turns seven and eight, ending up briefly in the gravel. He also earned a complaint from Charles Leclerc for going slowly on the racing line afterwards. “Mazepin will never change” commented the Ferrari driver, to which his engineer responded that they would report the blocking.

While there was little time between the Mercedes pair, some other team mates were substantially further apart. At Red Bull, Sergio Perez seemed to start the session with difficulties and was slow to set a timed lap and finished the session ninth fastest, 0.812 behind Verstappen’s time.

Verstappen’s quickest lap time came at the end of the session, after he picked up front wing damage early in the hour of running. Red Bull advised Perez to take extra care with the kerbs at turns seven and eight.

Off the back of a difficult weekend in Portugal, Daniel Ricciardo said he intended to make set-up changes to close the gap to Lando Norris. He finished the session 14th fastest, 0.848 seconds slower than his fourth-placed team mate, after testing different front wing specifications.

There was a late red flag in the final 15 minutes of the session while Robert Kubica’s car was retrieved from the gravel at turn 10. Although he was unable to get out of the deep gravel at the remodelled corner his car – which Kimi Raikkonen will return to in second practice – seemed relatively unscathed by the off.

The session restarted with nine minutes remaining, during which Verstappen set his lap to beat Hamilton for second-fastest. All drivers set their fastest lap times on soft tyres, and only Ferrari chose to ran the medium rubber in the opening session.

Both the Scuderia’s drivers had a lap time deleted for exceeding track limits at turn one but no one else incurred a penalty for kerb usage in the session.

2021 Spanish Grand Prix first practice result

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
177Valtteri BottasMercedes1’18.50425
233Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’18.5370.03319
344Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’18.6270.12322
44Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’18.9440.44024
516Charles LeclercFerrari1’18.9960.49225
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’19.0200.51622
710Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’19.0620.55826
85Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’19.2340.73024
911Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’19.3490.84517
1018Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’19.4290.92525
1122Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’19.6691.16522
1231Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’19.6811.17725
1399Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’19.6941.19023
143Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’19.7321.22824
1514Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’19.9501.44625
166Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’20.2701.76625
1745Roy NissanyWilliams-Mercedes1’20.7002.19623
1847Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’20.7662.26223
1988Robert KubicaAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’21.8873.38313
209Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’21.9763.47222

First practice visual gaps

Valtteri Bottas – 1’18.504

+0.033 Max Verstappen – 1’18.537

+0.123 Lewis Hamilton – 1’18.627

+0.440 Lando Norris – 1’18.944

+0.492 Charles Leclerc – 1’18.996

+0.516 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’19.020

+0.558 Pierre Gasly – 1’19.062

+0.730 Sebastian Vettel – 1’19.234

+0.845 Sergio Perez – 1’19.349

+0.925 Lance Stroll – 1’19.429

+1.165 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’19.669

+1.177 Esteban Ocon – 1’19.681

+1.190 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’19.694

+1.228 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’19.732

+1.446 Fernando Alonso – 1’19.950

+1.766 Nicholas Latifi – 1’20.270

+2.196 Roy Nissany – 1’20.700

+2.262 Mick Schumacher – 1’20.766

+3.383 Robert Kubica – 1’21.887

+3.472 Nikita Mazepin – 1’21.976

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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2021 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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14 comments on “Bottas edges Verstappen, then has near-miss with Sainz”

  1. Mazepin has to be the best driver with spin/£££ ratio.

    1. I wonder what how low the rates are for betting on Mazepin to spin at least once during FP1 every race @queki ;-)

  2. The green track world champion strikes again…

  3. Come on Valtteri !!

  4. is Vettel starting to get to grips with his car? Seems to have improved lately in one lap pace.

    1. someone or something
      7th May 2021, 12:43

      Three words:


      1. yeah, I know, but he was also faster in qualy at Portimao, reaching Q3 while Stroll exited in Q1.

        1. someone or something
          7th May 2021, 14:32

          True that. But I think Portimão was an outlier for many things, and a lot of people were caught out by the poor grip conditions, gusty wind, and easily overstepped track limits at every other corner. So it’s not even unlikely Stroll may have been quicker, but simply failed to string a decent lap together.
          Tellingly, Q1 was the first time Vettel wasn’t slower than Stroll that weekend (FP1: 16th +0.5; FP2: 15th +0.6; FP3: 18th +0.12). On the other hand, Stroll’s lap time evolution from Free Practice to qualifying was anomalous; he was barely faster in Q1 than he had been on Friday (-0.5), whereas virtually everyone else gained at least a second.

          I’ve often been on the record as saying that accidentally overperforming is impossible. But it is possible to look more competitive than usual in a session that has a large proportion of the field, especially your team mate, struggling.

          That being said, I do expect Vettel to outpace Stroll eventually. Stroll has consistently been the worst qualifier on the grid (with the possible exception of drivers with extremely short-lived careers, but he was even outqualified by Sirotkin …). Statistically, he’s only come out ahead of his team mate once every 4 races. So, unless Vettel has forgotten absolutely everything he once knew about driving a racecar, Stroll’s moment of glory should be over sooner or later. I’m just not sure that’s been the case yet.

    2. I do think that he is at least starting to get a grip on things yeah @gechichan. Off course it might be that he will drop off again during the weekend, or maybe he gets in a decent qualifying but then it proves again that the team are lacking in the race.

      But it doesn’t look as dour as it was looking this time of year last season in Ferrari, nor does it look as hopeless as in the first 2 races at the moment.

      1. It’s not the team that lacks in the race though, it’s bottas, this has been a trend for a while now, he can bring some competition to hamilton in quali but not in the race.

        1. Sorry, what does Bottas have to do with the competativeness of Vettel and Aston Martin @esploratore? You lost me there.

  5. Interestingly, F1 removed Gasly’s remark from their FP1 video. Apparently, they considered it to be too mean to Mazespin.

    1. I would laugh if he or Charles swore in Russian when Nikita does anything to them.

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