Bottas, Hamilton top Spanish GP practice

Vettel confident Ferrari can solve ‘Rubik’s Cube’ car

Hamilton - My former engineer has helped Bottas unlock performance

It's rare for Lewis Hamilton to be consistently beaten in qualifying. Verstappen slammed on the brakes in time, before complaining to his team and shaking his fist at Bottas.

"I think we have made a step forward, but Mercedes look like they have done a bigger step".

As Hamilton admitted, Bottas has looked like the man all weekend and assuming he leads into the first corner, he will be tough to beat.

"Valtteri's really, clearly stepped up this year and is really happy in the vehicle and really delivering and driving fantastically", Hamilton said.

Even so, Hamilton said if Bottas wanted to overtake him, he would have to earn it. Whether the harmony can be kept in such a situation remains to be seen...

The Finn, whose advantage stems from a fastest lap in Australia that was worth an extra point, failed to win a race past year while Hamilton was triumphant 11 times.

His best result at home came back in 2016 when he took his Toro Rosso to sixth position, but now as a fully-fledged McLaren driver, he arrives there relieved that he has six points on the board having started the year with three consecutive weekends without breaking into the top ten, although much of that was down to circumstances out of his control.

"So I had to go out, first, ahead of everyone".

Could teams' strategy calls turn the order on its head?

The race has been based at the Circuit de Catalunya since 1991 with Jerez, Jarama, Montjuic and Pedralbes all previously playing host.

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"Certainly we are not happy for the points we have scored so far", Binotto said.

The fastest strategy is predicted to be a two-stopper, and by a more significant margin over a one-stop than at recent races.

"Actually I have a completely new engineering team, a new race engineer and also a new performance engineer", he said.

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

Can Haas deliver their first positive Sunday since Australia? Bahrain, pure pace, they were better.

"So, the last couple of laps, were, in Q3 particularly, just weren't strong". Barcelona was one venue where they did not have such trouble during the winter, and with warmer temperatures this weekend, the signs are that they should be relatively competitive again.

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. Third, fourth race, behind for both qualifying and race.

Renault's Daniel Ricciardo was in 10th place but will take a three-place grid penalty for causing a collision in Baku.

Predictably, most of the teams will arrive in Spain with an array of updates for their cars that may make it more hard to predict performance, but Ferrari appear to have chosen to adopt a downbeat approach in advance.

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