Reality bites for Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes upgrades fall flat and finishes 11th at practice ahead of Spanish Grand Prix… as Championship leader Max Verstappen sets the pace in Barcelona
- Max Vertstappen set the pace for the Spanish Grand Prix during second practice
- Lewis Hamilton only finished 11th on a disappointing day for Mercedes team
- Spanish home favourite Fernando Alonso finished second for Aston Martin
Hard facts stared Lewis Hamilton in the face. After two hours flogging his Mercedes around the Barcelona track, he was only 11th fastest.
So much for the upgrade to which he once said he was ‘counting down the days’. Although hoping for improvement as the weekend develops, he admitted: ‘From the pace I had today it will be a struggle to qualify in the top 10,’ for the Spanish Grand Prix.
In practice, the seven-time champion was more than six-tenths adrift of Max Verstappen, currently the world’s fastest man in the world’s fastest car.
Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell was nearly half a second off the pace and eighth quickest on this familiar Circuit de Catalunya track, which, unlike Monaco’s twisting streets last week, served as a more representative testing ground.
Whatever progress Mercedes make today or over the coming weeks, it is now clear that the new package does not represent a night-and-day revolution.
Lewis Hamilton was a distant 11th while Mercedes teammate George Russel finished in eighth
Max Vertstappen once again led the way as he finished fastest around the grid for Red Bull
Verstappen has been in a class of one for the past 18 months and his dominance continues
And all the teams around them are introducing upgrades of their own, rendering the Silver Arrows’ remedial task all the harder.
‘It is impressive to see the improvements everyone has made,’ said Hamilton. ‘Look at the Alpines (Esteban Ocon fifth and Pierre Gasly 10th), and you can see the Aston Martin (of Fernando Alonso) is right behind the Red Bull. We are fighting as hard as we can. It was a difficult day getting on top of the tyres and the degradation. The car feels like… the car.’
A big crowd jammed the roads leading to the circuit at least in part owing to Alonso’s revival at the age of 41. The Spaniard, king of these parts, takes top billing in the public imagination over his compatriot Carlos Sainz, who was seventh quickest for Ferrari yesterday.
Although surely nothing short of a space rocket can stop Verstappen, the one glimmer of hope for the local faithful was Alonso’s indication that he is best placed to pounce if the Dutchman suffers a mishap.
‘Things can change rapidly so I will not give up on the title until it is impossible,’ said Alonso, who has not won a race since his 32nd victory here 10 years ago and stands 51 points off the summit.
‘We have a low chance and we have to be realistic about that. Max is showing great performances and no weak points. But we need to challenge him closer to see if he makes any mistakes, because at the moment life is too easy for Max.
‘We have a new generation of younger fans who didn’t see me stepping on the podium before. They probably thought you lose performance and ability with age and I was just a driver from the past.
‘But eventually they see the car — as we repeat many times but sometimes you need to prove it once again — is the most important thing in Formula One, and they suddenly see you are a good driver.
‘My popularity is on a high. We have to ride this wave.’
TV: Spanish Grand Prix qualifying, 3pm, LIVE on Sky Sports F1 from 2.15pm.
Fernando Alonso was second fastest finishing just 0.170 seconds back from Verstappen
Post source: Daily mail