Dakar Rally: Mercedes Dominates Spanish GP Practice, But Red Bull Readies Major Setup Changes

    The opening practice sessions for the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes emerge as the early pace-setters, topping the timesheets in FP2. However, Red Bull and world champion Max Verstappen appear to be holding their cards close to their chest, with a major setup change planned for Saturday that could unlock significant performance.

    In the first practice session, it was McLaren’s Lando Norris who set the pace, edging out Verstappen with a lap of 1m14.228s. The Mercedes duo of Hamilton and George Russell were not far behind, suggesting the Silver Arrows may be able to challenge for victory this weekend.

    The afternoon FP2 session saw Hamilton shine, posting a 1m13.264s to lead the way. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Norris were close behind, hinting at a potential four-way fight for supremacy at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

    “The setup has to go in that direction [higher downforce] for the race,” Helmut Marko, Red Bull advisor, revealed. “We didn’t use full power, so it is not so alarming. The long runs were ok.”

    Analysis of the long-run data further underscores Red Bull’s potential. The team’s best average soft tire pace was 0.71s quicker than McLaren and 0.158s faster than Mercedes, suggesting Verstappen and Sergio Perez could have a significant advantage in the race.

    Meanwhile, Ferrari appears to still be working to optimize the handling of the SF-24, with the team making “considerable setup changes” to Charles Leclerc’s car between FP1 and FP2. The Monegasque driver had described his car as “horrendous” in the opening session.

    With the prospect of a closely contested battle between the top teams, the stage is set for an intriguing weekend of Formula 1 action at the Spanish Grand Prix.

    ๐Ÿ”— Source