Formula 1 championship leader Valtteri Bottas believes Mercedes has taken the “right direction” with its car development after dominating Friday practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Mercedes struggled during the first week of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya but turned in a strong performance on Friday as Bottas headed a one-two finish ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari had been labelled as the early favourites following its eye-catching testing performance and was tipped for an improved weekend returning to the Spanish GP venue, but it was Mercedes that ended up quickest throughout both practice sessions, with the reigning world champions holding a three-tenths of a second margin at the end of FP2.

“It's always an interesting day when you're bringing new parts to the car to get a feel for it and see if they bring the performance they should,” Bottas said.

“The car felt really good today, completely different to how it was in winter testing, and it seems like our cornering performance has improved. The balance around the lap is also better, so it looks like we've taken the right direction since the winter.

“Today was good, but it's only Friday and Ferrari are very close. It feels like we've made a good step forward, but we need to wait and see what tomorrow holds.”

Bottas topped both sessions but saw his long run programme disrupted by a late issue in the closing stages of opening practice, though Mercedes insists Bottas’ car has escaped damage.

“We had an oil leak on Valtteri's car in the first session which stopped us before he could do the long run at the end of the session,” said trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin.

“Fortunately, it doesn't look to have caused any damage and we were able to get back out at the start of the second session.

“We also had quite a few new bits on the car here, so we'll also be checking the data from those this evening to confirm it's all functioning as expected.”

 

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