Bottas fastest in opening practice in Barcelona

Both teams have been talking up the other's chances.

"I think we are going in the right direction", he said. The competition is very strong, which is not a surprise.

"I'm pretty sure [Mercedes] will be very strong as well in Barcelona", Binotto said.

"The vehicle felt really good today, completely different to how it was in winter testing, and it seems like our cornering performance has improved", Bottas said.

Ferrari were the fastest team in pre-season testing in Barcelona and, with an engine upgrade, are hoping to recover that pace in the first race of the traditional European part of the campaign.

Ferrari, however, are in desperate need of a victory to get their torrid start to the season back on track, to prove they can rival Mercedes.

"Then we arrived in Australia and struggled to feel the same and the first four races have been up and down".

"Our opponents were blisteringly quick in winter testing, so the Spanish Grand Prix will be anything but easy", he said.

Bottas leads the drivers' standings with 87 points, one more than five-time champion Hamilton.

Bottas leads defending champion Hamilton by one point overall.

"Their fifth one-two finish is exceedingly dominant", said Red Bull boss Christian Horner, whose auto was the closest to Mercedes in Barcelona with Max Verstappen finishing third.

"Since then we have been working with a team from (FI management) to identify their needs and ours", Fontserè said on Friday.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is 4.655 km long and is known for testing all areas of a modern F1 auto. Remember how strong (Daniel) Ricciardo was previous year in the Red Bull.

One of five races in the a year ago of their current contract, there has been a shadow hanging over the future of the Spanish Grand Prix for some time, first with the withdrawal of government funding then the "retirement" of Fernando Alonso. The Formula One race will take place on Sunday.

"Obviously, I'm pleased with how the season has started compared to recent ones".

Vicens Aguilera, the boss of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, is hopeful that a deal can be done with Formula 1 officials so that the Spanish track can remain on the calendar beyond this season, although they have a summer deadline for any contract to be signed.

"It is only down to a big team effort with everyone pushing hard to make up ground that we have been able to bring these developments forward". Binotto said a new "formulation of race lubricant" will also be introduced along with the new power unit, "delivering increased performance". We have a great energy with the team, the respect is there.

Vettel is already 35 points off the championship summit, with Leclerc five points further back.

  • Julie Sanders