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Hamilton quickest in Spain FP1 as Alonso, Vettel hit trouble

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Lewis Hamilton made a flying start to the Spanish Grand Prix weekend by topping the timesheets for the opening Formula 1 practice session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas arrived in Barcelona armed with a number of updates for their W08 car, with the hope of eking out an advantage over Ferrari after a tight battle through the opening four races.

Hamilton and Bottas pulled out almost a second on the Ferrari pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, with the three-time champion setting a fastest time of 1:21.521.

Bottas finished just 0.029 seconds shy of his teammate in second place, with Raikkonen a further nine-tenths of a second adrift. Vettel’s best lap was over a second slower than that of Hamilton at the top of the timesheets.

Vettel was fortunate to finish so high up after suffering a problem on his car early in the session that forced him to park his car up at the end of the pit lane. The German was able to be wheeled back to the Ferrari garage so he could get back out on-track.

There were worse fortunes for McLaren and home favorite Fernando Alonso, who completed just two corners before an oil leak caused his car to snap sideways and spew plumes of smoke, acting as the latest issue at the start of a trying season for the driver and the team. The Spaniard reportedly left the circuit and has returned to his hotel in Barcelona.

Red Bull’s updated RB13 car looked strong in FP1 as Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took fifth and sixth respectively, while Haas managed to get both of its cars into the top 10. Kevin Magnussen was seventh ahead of Romain Grosjean in eighth, although the former’s session was cut short after a stoppage with seven minutes remaining.

Nico Hulkenberg finished ninth for Renault ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr., who was the lead home driver in 10th place for Toro Rosso.

Second practice for the Spanish Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Friday.

Hamilton hails ‘greatest day’ after USGP victory, Mercedes title win

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Lewis Hamilton made no secret of his jubilation after taking a giant step towards his fourth Formula 1 championship win with victory in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix that also saw Mercedes clinch the constructors’ title.

Hamilton recovered from an early pass by F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel to take his sixth victory on American soil, five of which have come at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, to extend his lead to 66 points.

With just 75 left on offer this season, Hamilton needs just one top-five finish in the final three races to clinch his fourth world title, with the enormity of the victory not being lost on the Mercedes driver.

“Today has been amazing. It’s been the greatest day,” Hamilton told NBCSN after the race.

“I woke up a bit tired, felt the rain, then was like, ‘What the hell?’ But I didn’t mind. I won here in the rain in the past. Then it dried up, clear blue skies, amazing opening at the beginning of the GP.

“I lost first place into Turn 1. It was OK. That first section, we got through there, and it felt very reminiscent of 2012: ‘Game on. You have to save the tires’, and he wasn’t doing that. I kind of kept my cool.”

“I saw I got a good exit of Turn 1, this was the lap and it was. His tires were dropping off anyway.”

Hamilton’s victory saw Mercedes wrap up its fourth consecutive F1 constructors’ title with three races to spare, with the Briton having played a key part in each of its successes.

“I’m so proud of this team. Big congratulations to the guys, people don’t know the amount of work they do,” Hamilton said.

“It’s over 1,500 people in two factories, so much brainpower and a lot of people to manage to extract the best from each of those.

“To come into a new era of car and perform as we have. There’s been a newfound love within the team. Ferrari, we want to beat them, thrash them.

“So they put more hours of working in to do that. That’s for all their hard work.”