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Leclerc tops FP1 in Spain, with reduced Mercedes bouncing after upgrades

Leclerc tops FP1 in Spain, with reduced Mercedes bouncing after upgrades

20 May - 14:00 Last update: 14:09
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Equipped with some new upgrades, Ferrari have recorded a Charles Leclerc led one-two in the opening practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix. In Barcelona, Max Verstappen rounded out the top three and was followed by George Russell. Early indications suggest Mercedes have solved the porpoising issues. 

Upgrades 

Mercedes visited Paul Ricard for a 100km filming day earlier in the week. That increased the hype around whether or not they've solved the porpoising with upgrades. FP1 confirmed changes have been made to the Mercedes floor and this, therefore, drew everyone's eyes in the first part of the session. The early laps showcased less bouncing down the straights thus suggesting Mercedes have improved. 

Though they weren't near the top of the timesheets in the opening part of the session, with Leclerc and Verstappen exchanging positions in P1. Mercedes worked their way up as the session developed, but Red Bull and Ferrari are still the two teams to beat in 2022. Verstappen ended up coming third in the standings, with Leclerc leading a Ferrari one-two equipped with their new upgrades. 

Meanwhile, Aston Martin launched their 'B' car which looks remarkably similar to the Red Bull car. During the session, Christian Horner was spotted on the pit wall with a green can of Red Bull. It was confirmed Red Bull have questioned Aston Martin's car, but the FIA believe "legitimate independent" work has been carried out. Either way, Sebastian Vettel had a quiet start to the session with a small exhaust issue. The German reached P16 in the timesheet, with Stroll almost at the midtable point. 

Alternative names 

Along with the new regulations for the cars, F1 bosses have ensured the next generation have a greater chance of getting opportunities within Formula 1. Teams must add an alternative driver in at least two free practice sessions across the season. Given that pre-season testing took place in Barcelona, it's not a surprise to see some of the F1 drivers start to give up their seats this weekend. 

Alfa Romeo confirmed Robert Kubica's place in FP1 earlier in the week, but that's not related to the young driver tests. Two next-generation drivers, Juri Vips and Nyck De Vries replaced Sergio Perez and Alex Albon respectively. 

For Red Bull, Vips wasn't chasing quick times and ran through his own test schedule. In the Williams, De Vries found himself much further up the timesheet and ahead of permanent Williams driver Nicholas Latifi for much of the session. Vips got given some fresh soft tyres in the final ten minutes of the session with him producing a time around four seconds behind Ferrari. 

Spanish fans

Given the growth of Formula 1 during this era, record numbers of fans are expected in Barcelona this weekend. 110,000 fans per day are forecast to go through the gates, with the majority of home fans expecting a strong performance from Sainz. The Spaniard has, of course, raced in Spain before but for the first time, he arrives with a Championship competitive car. Two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso also received popular cheers throughout the practice session. 

Alonso managed to breach the top five with another impressive practice session for Alpine. The man from Spain has been vocal about making sure Alpine have as good a race day as they have in qualifying and practice. Sainz encouraged the Spanish fans by being on pace with Leclerc after dropping behind in recent race weekends. 

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