Lewis Hamilton toils in 12th as Max Verstappen and Red Bull dominate in Spain

Lewis Hamilton toils in 12th as Max Verstappen and Red Bull dominate in Spain

Lewis Hamilton finished only 12th in opening practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.

As Max Verstappen predictably set the pace for Red Bull at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, Hamilton ended the one-hour running 1.2 seconds behind the Dutchman.

Sergio Perez finished second, seven tenths adrift of his Red Bull team-mate, with Esteban Ocon, fresh from his podium at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, third for Alpine. Home favourite Fernando Alonso was sixth.

Mercedes spent the first running of the weekend rooted to the bottom of the time sheets before late laps from George Russell, who finished two places and one tenth ahead of his team-mate, and Hamilton hauled them up the order.

Hamilton admitted here on Thursday that Mercedes’ much-anticipated upgrade, which made its debut in Monaco a week ago, had not provided the magic fix he was hoping for.

And on his new machine’s second outing, at a track where the Silver Arrows said they would obtain a greater understanding of their upgrades, the evidence suggests they are no closer to competing with the grid’s all-conquering team, or indeed, leapfrogging rivals Aston Martin and Ferrari.

Verstappen has been in a class of one for much of the past 18 months and his dominance continued on Friday.

He was the only man to break the 75-second barrier, a day after he made the ominous prediction that Red Bull could win all 16 remaining races.

Nyck de Vries has endured a trying start to his Formula One career but the AlphaTauri driver finished fourth in first practice, a spot clear of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, with Alonso, the 41-year-old Spaniard, the only other driver to finish within a second of Verstappen.

British driver Lando Norris was 11th for McLaren, six places ahead of Oscar Piastri in the other McLaren.

Second practice, which could be disrupted by rain, is due to start at 5pm local time (4pm BST).