The headlines from the second practice session at the Circuit de Catalunya were many. Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari was on top but the previously hopelessly balanced Mercedes found new poise with its upgrades. George Russell was P2 just 0.1s behind the Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton a further 0.1s back in P3.
Also of note was Alonso’s Alpine which has struggled to compete with McLaren and Alfa Romeo this year roared into P6, with Vettel in the controversial new Aston Martin in P8.
Yet the big story behind the headlines was the data behind the long run simulations that will determine how quick the cars are in the race.
Here Max Verstappen romped it.
Autosport commentary believe the medium tyres will be the choice of tyre for the race and Max Verstappen delivered 12 laps with an average time of 1:26:00.
The quickest three cars on the qualifying simulation managed the following.
Charles LeClerc 11 laps at an average of 1:26:68
George Russell 8 laps at an average of 1:26:60
Lewis Hamilton 7 laps at an average of 1:26:50
Hamilton complained after the session of high degradation and having to permanently “manage the tyres like never before”.
Christian Horner implied when speaking to Sky’s anchor Simon Lazenby, that Red Bull may have been saving engine mode due to their reliability issues over the opening 5 races of the season.
So if Verstappen can make the front row and not be held up by the others at the race start on Sunday, he could easily build a 6-7 second lead before the first round of pit stops.
The Spanish GP has been a two stop race for the past three years, but tyre wear and high temperatures mean this could be a 3 stop race. This would allow Verstappen the luxury of starting P3/P4 and still gaining the overall advantage as his competitions run out of tyres.
It’s not always the headlines that tell the true story. Today Max Verstappen demonstrated the Red Bull car is significantly dominant in terms of it’s tyre management and long run race pace. To do that in Barcelona is huge.
Half a second a lap is an enormous advantage and although Red Bull brought fewer upgrades than Ferrari and Mercedes, their car is in good shape to be ahead of the rest for the next phase of the season.