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Saturday August 18th, 2018 10:14AM

Mercedes sets the pace in 1st practice session in Spain

By The Associated Press
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Valtteri Bottas set the pace with Mercedes in the first practice session for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.

Bottas was fastest with a lap of 1 minute, 18.148 seconds at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday, nearly a second quicker than teammate Lewis Hamilton, who was second fastest.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who trails Hamilton by four points in the drivers' standings after four races, was third.

Most teams brought significant updates for their cars to Barcelona as Formula One returned to Europe after races in Australia, Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan.

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. He had to retire and lost a lot of track time.

Ricciardo still finished with the seventh-fastest time, while Verstappen was fourth quickest.

Kimi Raikkonen was fifth with Ferrari, just ahead of crowd-favorite Fernando Alonso with McLaren.

Robert Kubica, Williams' reserve driver, was back in an official F1 session for the first time since almost losing a hand in a rally crash in 2011. He participated in preseason testing this year, but his last race was the Abu Dhabi season finale in 2010.

The team had to make some modifications to Kubica's car because the Polish driver doesn't have full movement of his right hand.

Kubica, who had a spin toward the end of the session, finished with the second-to-last time — in front of teammate Lance Stroll.

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

Many drivers struggled with windy conditions at the track outside Barcelona.

Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso and Romain Grosjean of Haas were among those who went into the gravel. Bottas and Vettel also span but were able to continue their runs without significant damage.

Drivers will return to the track for another 90-minute session in the afternoon.

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More AP auto racing: https://racing.ap.org

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