Max Verstappen comfortably led the way during opening practice for Formula 1’s Spanish Grand Prix at a remodelled Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Verstappen set a new track record of 1:14.606s to finish 0.768s clear of Red Bull Racing team-mate Sergio Perez after the opening hour of running.
It marked the first opportunity for drivers to sample the revised final section of the lap, with the circuit having restored the pre-chicane layout that was in place until 2007.
Rather than use the fiddly right-left-right sequence of corners the chicane is now bypassed with a high-speed right-hander, in the process also making the final turn a high-speed right-hander.
Several drivers noted a bump at the final corner – given its significantly higher apex speed – and referenced their cars bottoming out through the turn.
Verstappen’s benchmark was 5.2s faster than the respective session-leading effort in last year’s opening practice at the venue.
Verstappen’s sizeable advantage over Perez contrasted with the tightly-congested order behind, with only a few tenths covering half the field.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon continued his fine Monaco form by placing third, with team-mate Pierre Gasly fifth, while AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries was an encouraging fourth.
Gasly was involved in the only noteworthy incident during the session when he lightly brushed wheels with Williams’ Logan Sargeant at Turn 10, though neither sustained damage in the minor contact.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso – the highest-placed non-Red Bull driver in the championship – was sixth, ahead of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who ran the updated components on the SF-23, were eighth and ninth respectively, as Mercedes’ George Russell rounded out the top 10.
Second practice for the Spanish Grand Prix is scheduled for 17:00 local time