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Spanish Grand Prix F1 qualifying storylines: Mercedes’ day?

The 2024 Formula 1 season has had many twists and turns throughout its nine races.

A recent surprise? George Russell winning pole position at the Canadian Grand Prix over Max Verstappen. Both drivers finished in the same time, but the Mercedes driver set a faster time, giving Russell the team’s first pole position of the season. Verstappen won on Sunday, while Russell finished on the podium in third place. This is the first time Mercedes has finished on the podium in a Grand Prix this season.

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished just behind in fourth place, earning the bonus point for fastest lap of the race, making it the team’s best result of the entire season.

With qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix just around the corner, are they ready for an even better day?

Friday’s practice saw the Mercedes duo either near the top of the timesheets or at the top of the timesheets in both sessions, with Russell finishing fourth in the first session and Hamilton close behind in seventh, and FP2 was even tougher for the Silver Arrows, as Russell set the eighth fastest time but Hamilton outpaced everyone else to take the lead, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris.

Will Mercedes have another strong qualifying session in Barcelona?

“FP1 wasn’t our best session but we still learned a lot. FP2 was much better and the car felt great,” Hamilton said in the team’s post-practice report. “The track was very hot so [tires]”Especially in the longer runs. But overall I didn’t feel like I was too far behind the lead pack.”

Russell shared his teammate’s assessment, while warning Mercedes supporters that it was still Friday.

“It was a good day today, the car was performing really well on this circuit and it was encouraging to see Lewis at the top of the timesheets and we were always at the front,” Russell said.

“Our long-run pace in FP1 was competitive. In FP2, our single lap pace seemed slightly faster than our long-run speed, but overall the car feels strong. It’s only Friday but it’s been a while since we’ve been so consistently at the front,” the Mercedes driver continued. “This is something we’ve been chasing for a long time so I feel good and excited. But we won’t get ahead of ourselves and will work hard tonight and tomorrow to prepare as best we can for qualifying and the Grand Prix on Sunday.”

Friday’s strong performance comes at an interesting time for the Brackley-based team, after an anonymous email sent to F1 journalists this week detailed the team’s treatment of Hamilton. SB Nation If you haven’t checked your email, report Reuters The email, which “purports to come from an insider and accuses the F1 team of obstructing the departure of seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton,” reads the statement.

Team principal Toto Wolff slammed the email at an FIA press conference on Friday, and even told Barcelona media that police had become involved in the matter.

There’s never a dull moment in F1.

…Alpine?

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

The first practice session on Friday was encouraging for Alpine, with Esteban Ocon finishing inside the top 10, just ahead of team-mate Pierre Gasly in 13th place.

FP2 went even better for the team.

When the chequered flag waved at the end of Friday’s second practice session, Ocon was inside the top 10 in ninth place, but the most surprising result was Gasly, who finished fourth in the session.

After a rocky start to the season, will Alpine achieve a shock victory in Barcelona?

Even the team itself seemed surprised by their strong performance.

“Coming into the weekend at this particular track it was a bit unexpected to have both cars finish the day in the top 10. Of course you never know what the other cars are doing but overall it’s a good start to the weekend,” Ocon said in the team’s post-practice report. “It wasn’t the C3’s best lap. [tire] “We had some traffic jams in Free Practice 2 and some interruptions in both long and short runs. There are definitely things we can improve on to improve our lap times, so we’ll continue to work hard and make progress towards tomorrow’s qualifying, which is important at this track.”

Gasly speculated that the result was probably “happy” for the team.

“It was a positive Friday for us, especially in the second free practice. The final result of finishing in fourth place was probably a nice surprise for us, of course, but a pleasant surprise and put a smile on our face! In the first free practice we had a small aerodynamic issue with the car, which we had to fix,” added Gasly. “Once we fixed that, the car felt good right from the start of the second session. We had a solid baseline to work from, and some good push laps in the C3, but we’re not entirely comfortable with the car. There are a few things we need to fine-tune to make the car feel even better for tomorrow’s key moment.”

If any team needs flattery, it’s certainly Alpine. Even their Montreal result – the first double points finish of the season – meant that Ocon He seemed annoyed. After the race, he spoke about some of the team orders given at the end of the Canadian Grand Prix.

And there was more news on Friday, when Alpine announced that Flavio Briatore would join their executive team.

Briatore is a long-time figure in F1 with what has been described as a checkered past: he was convicted of fraud in Italy in the 1980s before he began his F1 career, and decades later was forced to resign from the ING Renault F1 team for his involvement in the “Crashgate” scandal surrounding the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Briatore was subsequently banned indefinitely from all FIA-sanctioned events, a ban that was later overturned by a French court.

The appointment was made on Friday FIA press conference Alpine team boss Bruno Famin was repeatedly questioned about the move.

“I have already answered the question about the past and I don’t really care about the past. I always look to the future and what we can achieve and try to make the team better.” Famine says: Answering David Croft’s questions Sky Sports F1“And that is exactly our goal. We see that having Flavio as an advisor to the team gives us the opportunity to use his experience to help us. He has a very advanced knowledge of F1. He knows a lot of people. And we are convinced that he will help us to develop the team faster and better. That’s it.”

As the saying goes, victory is a panacea, and while Alpine may not be ready to fight for victories just yet, it would be nice to have another strong weekend.

Even if flattery is part of the story.

A “difficult” day for VCARB

Meanwhile, it was a “more difficult” day for the Visa Cash App RB F1 Team.

In the first session on Friday, Daniel Ricciardo was in 15th place and Yuki Tsunoda was last in 20th place. Things didn’t improve much in FP2, with Tsunoda moving up to 15th place and Ricciardo dropping back to 16th.

But both drivers are hopeful that answers will be found overnight.

“Today was harder than usual. The pace wasn’t where we wanted it to be, so we’ll look at what was missing and hopefully do better tomorrow,” Tsunoda said in the team’s post-practice report. “The upgrades are working as expected, but it’s not where we wanted it to be and we’re off our usual pace, so we’ll review all the data to find out what was missing today.”

Ricciardo, who said on Thursday he “hopes to win” a VCARB seat next season, said he still enjoyed taking on the challenge at the renovated Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya despite the team’s “struggles” on Friday.

“We struggled a little bit today and were a little bit lacking in competitiveness, but it’s always fun to drive and I’ve never driven on this track with this last sector before today. It was an old track a long time ago and now it’s a new track again. I have to say I like the new track a lot more because I think it’s a little bit more lively,” said Ricciardo. “The main upgrade we brought here is the floor, which with these cars is a big part of the development. I’m still somewhat optimistic and once we try it out tonight we’ll see how it works and a better way to set up the car for it. We still have a little bit of work to do, but I’m hopeful we can improve tomorrow.”

As both drivers pointed out, VCARB brought a number of upgrades to Barcelona for the RB01, including a new floor, and while that may have worked against them on Friday, the team will hopefully be able to extract more pace and performance from analysing the data overnight.

Check out the title race

Now back on the front row and battling for the top spot in their respective standings, the teams and drivers may be in a different frame of mind heading into Saturday.

McLaren’s Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri both finished in the top ten in both sessions, with Norris topping FP1 and finishing third in FP2. “Overall, there are no surprises. The front of the field looks pretty close and as we’ve seen recently, all the cars seem to be able to put in fast lap times.” Team principal Andrea Stella said:“We need to stay focused and put in some good laps, but the potential is promising and we’ll try to perform to the best of our ability this weekend and score as many points as possible.”

Ferrari may find Friday’s session a bit more mixed as they look to bounce back from a disastrous Canadian Grand Prix where both Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc finished outside the points, with Sainz particularly performing well as a result, finishing third in FP1 and second in FP2. However, both drivers Friday’s dual practice session was “difficult” from their perspective.

“As always in Barcelona it was a pretty difficult Friday with the sun coming up and the track surface changing rapidly. We struggled a bit to balance the car in both sessions but I think everyone had similar issues today. So overall I’m happy with the car but we still have some work to do, especially regarding race pace,” Sainz said in the team’s post-practice report. “What I really enjoyed today was the atmosphere at the track. Thanks to all the fans for their support and I’m looking forward to putting on a good show tomorrow!”

On the other side of the garage, Leclerc, who finished 11th in FP1 and sixth in FP2, echoed his teammate’s thoughts: “Overall, it’s been a difficult day for me. I’ve struggled a lot with the balance of the car, so set-up work will be the main focus for tomorrow,” said Leclerc. “In FP2 we ran a new package but we’re not fully used to it yet, so there’s a lot to do.”

As for Red Bull, they too are searching for answers, with Verstappen having been in the top five in both sessions but never looking confident in the RB20. At one point in FP2, Verstappen He radioed to his team that the car was quite “loose.”[t]Overall, this car is loose on corner exit. There’s still some weird understeer mid-corner. This car just doesn’t bite.”

Teammate Sergio Pérez finished fifth in the first session but finished just outside the top ten in the second session, recording the 13th fastest time.

After the session Team principal Christian Horner Horner said it will be a “tough” battle in Barcelona this weekend. “Obviously it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be close,” he said. “I think we’ve got very good data now so we’ve got a lot to work on tonight.”

“It’s going to be a very tough race in Barcelona.”

This seems to be a theme this season.

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