Formula One: Hamilton seeks boost after Sochi blip

But the Barcelona race has only been won by the eventual world champion three times in the past decade - Jenson Button in 2009, Sebastian Vettel in 2011 and Lewis Hamilton in 2014.

There Ferrari impressed and the first four races confirmed that they have caught up with Mercedes, with Vettel winning twice for the Italian team, and Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas once each for the champions.

On a day of gusty winds that caused problems for many drivers at the Circuit de Catalunya, last year's victor Dutch teenager Max Verstappen of Red Bull was fifth fastest ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Ultimately, Mercedes had the edge over Ferrari in both sessions, but once again there was relatively little to separate the two-Hamilton and Bottas could lock out the top spots in Saturday's qualifying, but it's hardly beyond Raikkonen or Vettel to get their noses in front on Sunday's grid. "It was OK but as I said, we can improve".

"Today was an important one for us with the new upgrade package on the vehicle", he said.

"I think coming into this weekend we have a good understanding what went wrong on our side of the garage", Hamilton said. I wasn't too happy, but I can feel the auto is quick so that is good.

And asked if he agreed with the assessment of former Ferrari driver Felipe Massa that the Scuderia would throw the bulk of their support behind Vettel, Hamilton told Sky Sports News HQ: "I think they are always like that. I'm not anxious, I'm just not happy with how the day went", Vettel said.

There was a pace disparity between the Mercedes pair early, with Bottas needing just one flying lap on medium to move into top spot with a 1m23.062s lap.

"It's not my decision but I'm ready to race whoever comes along".

While Mercedes has brought a visually different front end to its vehicle in Spain, Vettel is unfazed by the scale of the upgrades seen on other cars and is confident with Ferrari's development work. "We're expecting some various new parts...but we can't really focus too much on performance until we have solved our reliability issues".

"I'll try to keep good momentum out of that".

Alonso, who was left without any meaningful running in FP1 after an early engine failure, only emerged out of the pits half an hour into the session - and had to wait a bit longer for an actual proper run.

The Circuit de Catalunya, a track drivers and teams know intimately from days of pre-season testing, is capable of throwing up the most unexpected and unpredictable results.

"I feel good. Obviously today I don't feel so good inside the vehicle - it was quite slippery but I think it was due to the conditions".

  • Aubrey Nash