Valtteri Bottas leads disrupted FP1 session in Barcelona

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel during practice

The see-sawing battle for supremacy between Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes team continues as the Formula One championship enters its European phase in Barcelona, where Hamilton leads a Mercedes lockout of the front row.

Vettel, who won three straight poles, will start third, followed by Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

On the second run, Hamilton reduced his time to a 1m16.173s.

Most improved: Mercedes may have broken Ferrari's run of consecutive pole positions, but Alonso qualifying eighth is arguably the most obvious change from previous rounds.

Vettel ended the session third. Vettel will line up in third after qualifying 0.132 seconds slower than Hamilton. Usually tyre choice for Q3 is simple: go for the softest compound to get the most grip. He set a session-best time in sector three but did not manage to beat his team-mate's lap.

Daniel Ricciardo, who crashed with Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen in Azerbaijan, had a tough start to his weekend in Barcelona by going off the track and hitting a tire barrier midway through the session. Without diving too deeply into rubbery topics, Hamilton's Mercedes was again uncomfortable on the softer compound tyre, suggesting qualifying might be tricky. Renault's Carlos Sainz finished ninth ahead of Haas' Romain Grosjean.

Kevin Magnussen converted the encouraging pace Haas has displayed all weekend to qualify best of the rest in seventh, edging out local hero Fernando Alonso, who put McLaren through to Q3 for the first time of the season. Red Bull hoped the new parts it brought to Spain would close the qualifying gap but its drivers were four tenths behind the lead pair. Meanwhile, the Spaniard opted for supersofts during Q2 and will be starting the race on the faster rubber. Alonso's late lap dropped Vandoorne into 11th place.

Williams will be spared the indignity of seeing both of their cars on the final row of the grid after Brendon Hartley suffered a 160mph crash in final practice. He foresaw an "interesting race" on Sunday. There was a massive scalp when Renault's Nico Hulkenberg was eliminated along with the 2 struggling Williams and Marcus Ericsson. Such was the impact with the barriers that the gearbox snapped off when the auto was lifted from the gravel trap and there was no chance of getting the vehicle rebuilt in the two hours between the end of final practice and the start of Q1.

"I chipped away at my lap time by a few hundredths but it wasn't enough", Ricciardo said.

But their current line-up of Lance Stroll, the Canadian teenager whose career has been bankrolled by his fashion billionaire father Lawrence, and Russian Sergey Sirotkin, is possibly the worst in the team's history.

Stroll almost hit the tire barriers after going off the track with about a half-hour left in the first session.

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