‘Lucky’ Hamilton fights to be on top in Spain cam­paign

Saturday Star - - SPORT -

BARCELONA: For­mula One world cham­pion Lewis Hamilton re­turned to the top of the timesheets in sec­ond Span­ish Grand Prix prac­tice yes­ter­day, with the charg­ing Red Bulls of Daniel Ric­cia­rdo and Max Ver­stap­pen hot on his heels.

The Bri­ton, who leads the cham­pi­onship by four points from Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel af­ter four races, lapped the Cir­cuit de Catalunya in one minute, 18.259 sec­onds on the soft tyres.

Aus­tralian Ric­cia­rdo, whose car has some eye-catch­ing aero­dy­namic up­grades for the start of the Euro­pean sea­son, ended the ses­sion 0.133 sec­onds slower af­ter crash­ing in the morn­ing, while Ver­stap­pen was third.

Vet­tel, who will be chas­ing his fourth suc­ces­sive pole po­si­tion to­day, was fourth and Hamilton’s team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas fifth.

Vet­tel’s team mate Kimi Raikko­nen suf­fered a power unit prob­lem.

Bot­tas set the day’s over­all fastest lap in the open­ing ses­sion with a time of 1:18.148 sec­onds on the soft tyres, a re­mark­able 0.849 faster than Hamilton, who won from pole in Spain last year. Hamilton has not felt fully com­fort­able with his car and recog­nised that his cham­pi­onship ad­van­tage owes a lot to luck.

“At the mo­ment, I am punch­ing be­low my weight and that is not suf­fi­cient to win a world cham­pi­onship,” said on Thurs­day. “I have zero com­fort­a­bil­ity.”

The vir­tual safety car was de­ployed in the morn­ing when Ric­cia­rdo’s car ran across the gravel and into the bar­ri­ers.

“Thank­fully, the dam­age is pretty light,” team prin­ci­pal Chris­tian Horner told Sky Sports. “It was the old front wing, so he’s a lucky boy.”

Fer­nando Alonso started the week­end a morale-boost­ing sixth, be­hind Raikko­nen, with his Mclaren dis­play­ing a heav­ily-re­vised three­p­ronged nose. The Spaniard later slipped back to 12th.

Wil­liams had an­other try­ing ses­sion as Pol­ish re­serve Robert Ku­bica took part in a race week­end for the first time since 2010. The for­mer race winner was 19th, in 1:21.510, and faster than teenage Cana­dian team­mate Lance Stroll, who was in last place on the timesheets with a best of 1:22.756 af­ter his car went off into the gravel.

Ku­bica’s car had a newer floor than Stroll’s, how­ever.

“Un­be­liev­able how bad the balance is,” Stroll com­plained over the ra­dio.

Ku­bica was re­plac­ing Rus­sian rookie Sergey Sirotkin, who re­turned for sec­ond prac­tice and was slow­est in 1:22.060. – Reuters

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