Lewis Hamilton finished fastest in opening practice for the Spanish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton finished fastest in opening practice for the Spanish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton finished fastest in opening practice for the Spanish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both liked what they saw from the upgraded W08, which came armed to Spain with a whole host of aerodynamic changes.

"A huge amount of work has gone in to upgrade the vehicle and fantastic work, engineering and crafting work from the mechanics and everyone back home", he said.

"If you have another team that is fighting for the championship and you have a driver that is more than 20 points behind, he will need to do the same. This fight will continue on to the end of the season and we will be prepared for that battle".

Ferrari's Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel made light on Thursday of media speculation that he might move to rivals Mercedes in 2018.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen, last year's victor in Spain on his team debut, was fifth fastest ahead of Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo.

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Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff said the team is doing everything to make the auto perform well again, and also continues to adapt to no longer being the unchallenged number one in the sport. There has been a huge amount of analysis so we have definitely grown from the experience, both having a win and a fast auto and a vehicle that struggled in so many areas.

The only other driver from the leading trio of teams yet to triumph in Barcelona is Verstappen's Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo, but the Red Bull has lagged Mercedes and Ferrari on pace so far this year. I wasn't too happy, but I can feel the vehicle is quick so that is good.

Wolff said Mercedes had to face this new scenario after dominating for three seasons. "If you look race by race, and overall, they've been dominant and it's hard to beat that, but we're doing our best".

Nico Rosberg, the victor of the first four races in 2016, won the title with Mercedes last season, while Hamilton won the previous two championships.

"We expected Valtteri to develop through every single race and step up his performance and he's shown that", Wolff said.

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McLaren replaced his faulty Honda engine, and after Alonso returned to the paddock he was back on track for the second 90-minute session. I've had some great times there.

"I just have to keep pushing, keep getting stronger, and hoping to get more success".

Kimi Raikkonen, who at the moment is virtually fighting for his long term Grand Prix life at Ferrari, is the holder of the lap record at Catalunya set way back in 2008 in his normally aspirated Ferrari (time 1m 21.67s).

The scene was befitting of the driver that entered the year as the preseason pick to lead the title race following the stunning decision of last year's champion Nico Rosberg to retire.

He hadn't contended since then, but has a chance this season in this new and unpredictable F1.

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