BARCELONA, May 12 – Lewis Hamilton bounced back from his Sochi setback on Friday when he topped the times for Mercedes in opening practice for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. The three-time world champion led the way ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who claimed his maiden win in Russia two weeks ago, where a baffled Hamilton finished fourth. The Mercedes pair were almost a second clear of the two Ferraris led by Kimi Raikkonen ahead of championship leader four-time champion Sebastian Vettel. 

Hamilton clocked a best lap in one minute and 21.521 seconds, leading Bottas by 0.029 seconds. Luckless home hero Fernando Alonso once again suffered from an engine failure with his McLaren Honda car. He failed to complete a lap and left the circuit to return to his hotel and play tennis, only his sense of humour and loyalty to his fans keeping him optimistic for the afternoon’s second session.

Last year’s winner Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who triumphed on his debut for Red Bull, was fifth fastest ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen and his Haas team-mate Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg of Renault and Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso. Vettel suffered an early brief setback when he pulled up in the pit lane exit in his Ferrari with a rear wheel problem. He was hauled back to the team garage before he rejoined the fray with all of the teams running cars carrying extensive updates. — AFP

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