Lewis Hamilton faster than Valtteri Bottas in Spanish Grand Prix first practice

Lewis Hamilton faster than Valtteri Bottas in Spanish Grand Prix first practice

Lewis Hamilton bounced back from his Sochi setback today when he topped the times for Mercedes in opening practice for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.

Red Bull have brought a number of updates to their RB13 and while they appear to have closed the gap to Mercedes and Ferrari, Max Verstappen insisted they remain third in the pecking order. "We have started our relationship with a respectable foundation and I think that will continue".

As speed ramped up, Russian Grand Prix victor Bottas turned a 1:25.027, and Raikkonen beat that with a 1:24.691.

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says a lot of work has gone into understanding why, but admits there is no automatic fix. "The small margins we are seeing this season are demonstrated by the closeness at the top of the drivers' championship and even more so by the one-point advantage we have in the constructors'". "I hope we can be a bit closer to the top teams or that we can at least follow them".

Verstappen teammate Daniel Ricciardo said he was looking forward to "a quicker improvement" with the new additions to Red Bull this week.

Ferrari also have a series of aerodynamic changes on their vehicle, as do Red Bull, who are hopeful their upgrade will clos the one-second gap that has separated them from the front-runners so far this season.

"I feel good. Obviously today I don't feel so good inside the auto, it was quite slippery but I think it was due to the conditions, I think everybody was struggling a bit".

Wolff said Mercedes had to face this new scenario after dominating for three seasons. But, despite a strong start, he was warned past year by Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene that he would have to earn his next contract after a below-par campaign. "You simply need to adapt to the challenge and that's what we are doing, playing the hunter as well as being the hunted".

Hamilton won here 2014, but his first-lap collision with Rosberg a year ago knocked both out of the race and marked a low point in their contentious partnership.

"We're expecting some new parts, but we can't really focus too much on performance until we have solved our reliability issues", Alonso said.

Vettel was in a relaxed mood, joking with home hero Fernando Alonso of McLaren who was sitting alongside him.

"I'm struggling a bit to find the rhythm, I'm struggling a bit with the conditions, probably more myself than the auto".

After failing to start in Russian Federation, he is just hoping his revised McLaren will be on the grid to take part in his home race this Sunday.

Reports have emerged from Italy that Vettel, 29, has already held discussions with Mercedes' non-executive chairman Niki Lauda to partner Hamilton next year.

"Of course Bottas is a credible competitor", the three-times world champion said when asked if he believed the Finn was in the running for the title.

Mercedes has introduced a raft of upgrades for the first European round of the 2017 F1 season, including a more tapered nose, a re-designed shark "fin" and a "scooped duct".

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