Upgraded Mercedes threaten record-breaking pace | 2017 Spanish Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

A fifth consecutive front row lock-out for Mercedes in the Spanish Grand Prix looks like a strong possibility after the first day of practice.

Their aggressive upgrade package seems to be working well straight out of the box. And the silver cars look more at home on the very firm tyre compounds.

Add the usual boost Mercedes unlock from their engines in time for Q2 and an all-silver front row looks like a safe bet. But while Lewis Hamilton headed both sessions today he certainly can?t afford to be complacent about a team mate who is less than a tenth of a second behind him.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017Spanish Grand Prix practice in picturesFerrari trimmed Mercedes? advantage on the soft tyres during the second practice session. ?First practice was very, very good,? Hamilton explained, ?but in second practice the track changed and shifted quite a lot, so it was slippery and quite a lot slower for everyone ? especially with the gusts of wind. It was massively challenging.?

A red flag during the middle of the teams? long run in the second practice session makes it difficult to assess how well the tyres were lasting and what likely strategies we?ll see. But whereas last year?s race was a three/four stop event this year is more likely to be a one/two stop situation.

This could be where Ferrari have the chance to apply pressure to Mercedes on Sunday. As we?ve seen already this season the red cars can usually run longer and harder on a set of tyres, giving them useful strategic flexibility to attack their rivals.

Interestingly, Kimi Raikkonen seems particularly comfortable with his car this weekend. He hasn?t qualified or finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel so far this season ? could this be the weekend that changes?

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Having ended Friday in Russia almost one-and-a-half seconds off the Mercedes, Red Bull will be able to draw some satisfaction from having more than halved that gap. But we won?t get a true reading on how much faster they are until tomorrow. And they do not appear to have cured their weakness on the harder tyre compounds.

The speed of the Mercedes also has F1 on course to comfortably beat its goal of reducing lap times by five seconds compared to 2015. Lap times in second practice were six seconds inside those from the reference year and over three seconds quicker than last season. Rubens Barrichello?s 2009 track record lap of 1?19.954 looks in jeopardy.

Longest stint comparison ? second practice

This chart shows all the drivers? lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

Combined practice times

Fastest times by tyre

Driver Team Soft best Medium best Hard best
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1?20.802 1?21.521 1?23.531
Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1?20.892 1?21.550 1?23.614
Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1?21.585 1?23.084 1?25.019
Max Verstappen Red Bull 1?21.438 1?22.706 1?31.089
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1?21.220 1?22.600 1?27.342
Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1?21.112 1?22.456 1?24.366
Sergio Perez Force India 1?22.722 1?24.188 1?25.522
Esteban Ocon Force India 1?22.520 1?24.324 1?25.458
Felipe Massa Williams 1?22.015 1?24.522 1?25.894
Lance Stroll Williams 1?23.221 1?25.919 1?29.610
Fernando Alonso McLaren 1?24.077 1?25.800 None
Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1?22.693 1?24.400 1?26.624
Carlos Sainz Jnr Toro Rosso 1?22.265 1?24.004 1?35.921
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1?23.236 1?24.642 2?40.654
Romain Grosjean Haas 1?22.371 1?23.758 1?25.728
Kevin Magnussen Haas 1?23.007 1?23.670 1?25.688
Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1?21.687 1?23.993 1?25.827
Jolyon Palmer Renault 1?21.992 1?25.870 None
Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1?23.082 1?24.966 1?27.124
Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1?23.599 1?25.182 1?26.547
Sergey Sirotkin Renault None None 1?26.293

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