Published: Sat, May 13, 2017
Health Care | By Jan Bell

Bottas can turn it up to 11 in Spain

Mercedes said they would address the issue as a matter of urgency and Hamilton was hopeful the problem has been solved before the Spanish Grand Prix.

With the teams competing at the top of the grid all making changes in Barcelona, Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda is expecting a shake-up.

The track, located close to the city of Barcelona, is one of the venues used as a pre-season test circuit, so all of the teams already have experience and data of their 2017 specification cars on the track.

Mercedes dominated the opening practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix after its two updated W08 cars clocked times a second clear of the fastest Ferrari.

That the two cars are nearly perfectly matched in pace validates the teams' gruelling offseason efforts, which in turn have changed the sport's preseason pessimism into cautious optimism.

However the leader managed to get DRS himself as traffic within one second allowed him to use the system and hold off the advancing prancing horse.

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Despite seeing Mercedes finish one-two in both free practice sessions, Vettel says it is too early to judge whose upgrade package has been more successful.

Felipe Massa was the early pacesetter as the cars made their way around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, though he was soon surpassed by Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen before Hamilton left both in his wake.

Playing this upgrade game has been a key weakness of Ferrari's in recent seasons.

Alonso is the only Spaniard to have won a grand prix.

In Spain, however, Ferrari's promising start to the year dramatically unravelled.

"I'm struggling a bit to find the rhythm, I'm struggling a bit with the conditions, probably more myself than the auto". Hamilton topped that with a 1:23.637.

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Ferrari and Mercedes may be the front-runners again, but Red Bull expect to be close in pursuit with a heavily-updated vehicle while local hero Fernando Alonso has more modest hopes.

"If he's after the championship, now he has to improve". The team endured two very hard years after Honda were unable to supply a competitive power unit and 2017 was expected to be a major step forward; but the engine manufacturer is once again way off the pace.

That Red Bull Racing is struggling surprised many given the team's possession of Adrian Newey, the sport's foremast designer, in a regulatory era that emphasis aerodynamics.

Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen is fourth, ahead of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, who a year ago won in Barcelona to become F1's youngest race victor at age 18.

"Coming into this weekend we have a good understanding of where we went wrong on our side of the garage in Sochi", said Hamilton, who has not finished off the podium at consecutive races since 2013. "It means that the people who do the work behind the scenes get their reward as well". "This fight will continue on to the end of the season and we will be prepared for that battle".

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