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Sainz sends Spanish spirits soaring


Ahead of today's sole practice session the air temperature is 27 degrees C, while the track temperature is 42 degrees.

While Lando Norris was quickest in the morning, Lewis Hamilton set the afternoon pace, with Max Verstappen down in fifth. However, despite the various headlines proclaiming doom and gloom the Dutchman seemed quite positive last night, which is odd for someone who usually wears his heart very much on his sleeve.

However, the fact is that McLaren is looking strong as is Mercedes, while at Ferrari Charles Leclerc had a "tricky" day.

In the aftermath of Montreal, the Maranello has brought its upgrade forward and while Carlos Sainz appeared to benefit it is still too early to tell if the Italian team has taken a step forward.

The other Italian team, RB, has also brought a massive upgrade package, though neither of its drivers were happy at close of business last night.

The big surprise was Alpine which had both drivers in the Top Ten - Pierre Gasly in fourth - though it is too early to say whether this is another step forward or the Flavio effect.

In the moments before the start of the session there is drama in the paddock following a fire in the McLaren hospitality unit.

The lights go green and Hamilton is straight out of the box... on softs.

The seven-time world champion posts a benchmark of 14.178.

With seemingly nobody willing to join the Mercedes driver on track, eventually Verstappen and Magnussen head down the pitlane.

Hamilton is told that he's only losing time in Turns 4 and 5.

Verstappen (mediums) posts a 14.237, just 0.059s off the pace.

As Magnussen begins his flying lap, Tsunoda, Stroll and Alonso head out.

Magnussen posts an 18.655 on the hards as Russell heads out on softs.

As is the tradition at Aston Martin, both drivers pit without posting a time having merely gone out to scrub a set.

After two cool-down laps, Hamilton improves to 13.865.

Perez goes third (15.020), ahead of Tsunoda and Magnussen.

Complaining of a sore knee (tell me about it!), Stroll asks for a knee pad as Russell (softs) stops the clock at 13.431.

Sainz (softs) goes second with a 13.536 as his teammate slots into third with a 13.572.

Russell calls for foam to protect his knees as Tsunoda improves (15.662) but remains seventh.

It's thought that the g-forces in Turn 3 are causing the problems for the drivers' knees. With us it's simply degeneration.

As Norris goes second on the mediums (13.535), Piastri goes eighth (14.515) on the same compound.

"It's much less gusty, less windy than yesterday," opines Hulkenberg, the German, like his teammate, on hards.

With 38 minutes remaining, Sargeant is the last man to head out of the pits, though Stroll, Alonso and Albon have yet to post times.

"Good job on the car," says Leclerc, "it's a good step forward." "Happy to hear that," he is told.

Albon goes tenth (14.655) on the softs as Piastri fails to improve on eighth.

Sargeant goes fourteenth (15.086), like his teammate he is on the red-banded rubber.

On the mediums, Alonso goes 12th (14.980), while his teammate posts a 15.276 to go 15th.

"The leg padding is loose, front-left," reports Russell.

Stroll complains that his tyres are gone after one lap. He is told that nobody is improving.

With 24 minutes remaining, Sainz heads again, as does Gasly. The Spaniard fails to improve on his previous best, likewise the Frenchman.

Both Williams head out on fresh softs as the qualifying sims get underway, albeit somewhat early. Norris is also on fresh rubber.

Posting a PB is S1, Norris subsequently aborts the lap and pits, as teammate Piastri aborts his first soft flayer also.

Albon goes fifth with a 13.573 while a 14.729 is enough to put Sargeant 11th.

On his next flyer, Piastri goes quickest in S2, but a poor final sector mean he can only manage 7th with a 13.907.

Norris goes quicker in S2, while an equally strong final sector sees him cross the line at 13.043 to go top.

Hulkenberg goes 8th and Magnussen 9th as they finally ditch the hards for the softs.

Hamilton is warned of gravel at the exit of Turn 12.

Hamilton goes quickest in S2, finally crossing the line at 13.359 to go second, after running a little wide in Turn 12, 0.316s off the pace.

Slowing down after his lap, Hamilton impedes Stroll who isn't happy. Indeed it appears the pair touched and consequently the stewards are to look into the incident.

"I didn't see him, my bad," says the Mercedes driver.

Despite losing time behind Sargeant, Alonso goes seventh with a 13.786.

Russell goes second with a 13.164 as Ricciardo improves to 11th with a 14.161.

Despite a poor opening sector, Sainz posts a PN in S2, finally crossing the line at 13.013 having gone quickest in the final sector..

Verstappen goes third with a 13.087, just 0.074s off the pace, teammate Perez posts a 13.723 to go seventh.

As Leclerc posts purples in the opening sectors, Stroll goes 14th with a 14.254. A poor final sector sees Leclerc go third (13.050), the Ferrari driver, like many, suffering from the gusty win in Turn 12.

Zhou can only manage 19th, while his teammate goes 14th.

Despite all those upgrades, the RB pair are running 16th (Ricciardo) and 18th, both over 1.1s off the pace.

Another little incident, this time involving Leclerc and Norris, who touch. "F***," shouts the Monegasque, though he appeared to be the one at fault. "He just drove into me," says Norris, "I think I've got damage."

The session ends. Sainz is quickest, ahead of Norris, Leclerc, Verstappen, Russell, Hamilton, Perez, Albon, Alonso and Piastri.

Ocon is eleventh, ahead of Gasly, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Stroll, Tsunoda, Zhou and Sargeant.

As has been the case all weekend it's tight, very tight, with Sainz, Norris, Leclerc and Verstappen separated by just 0.074 and just 0.346covering the top six.

Adding further spice is the fact that Hamilton has to face the stewards, as has Leclerc, while Perez has that 3-place grid penalty from Montreal.

Should be fun.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Barcelona here.


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