Spanish GP: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes back on top after free practice sessions

The temperature had risen considerably between the two practice sessions in the sunshine, but the drivers also had windy conditions to deal with.

There hadn't been three different winners in the first four races since 2013, the year before the introduction of new engine rules that led to Mercedes' recent dominance.

After three races in 2017, some were saying that the Finn was teammate Lewis Hamilton's mere "number two".

He said the team had no immediate explanation for Hamilton's uninspired form in Sochi where he struggled with the vehicle. You saw at the end of the race I could at least be happy and share in the glory of the team beating the Ferraris still and keeping us in the lead of the Constructors' Championship.

Vettel is now leading the drivers' championship with 86 points ahead of Hamilton on 73 with Bottas up to third with 63 points.

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

"I think we've definitely grown from the experience, both having a win, having a fast auto and obviously having a vehicle that struggled in so many areas".

Hamilton said he hoped that the two-week break since Sochi will get him back on track.

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Verstappen's Australian teammate Daniel Ricciardo said he was looking forward to improvement with the upgrades this week to Red Bull.

Russian race victor, Valtteri Bottas, said that with every second counting so much this season, they were doing what they could to get a leap on Ferrari. "It's a good feeling for everyone when these upgrades work". It is a fact for all of us in the team that we find ourselves in a very good position this year. "If you look race by race, and overall, they've been dominant and it's hard to beat that, but we're doing our best".

Two-time champion and local hero Fernando Alonso missed the entire morning session after an engine failure before he had completed a single lap, but he emerged 30 minutes into the second session to give his fans something to cheer on his way to winding up down in 20th and last sport. I've had some great times there.

"I feel happier than I did this morning but we still need to work very hard to get more pace in the auto and also the engine".

Kimi Raikkonen, who at the moment is virtually fighting for his long term Grand Prix life at Ferrari, is the holder of the lap record at Catalunya set way back in 2008 in his normally aspirated Ferrari (time 1m 21.67s).

Looking ahead to the race, Vettel says there is work to do for Ferrari to get the best from the tyres, hinting there could be options with regards to strategy come Sunday.

But Hamilton arrives at the fifth race of the season facing new challengers from both within and without.

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