Lewis Hamilton was very satisfied with the performance of his new-look Mercedes W08 during the opening day of action in Barcelona as the three-time world champion seeks to bounce back from a difficult showing at the Russian Grand Prix.
Having claimed a top-two berth in each of the opening three races of the 2017 F1 season, Hamilton struggled badly for pace in Sochi and eventually fell 13 points behind title rival Sebastian Vettel in the world championship standings, courtesy of a fourth-place finish overshadowed by team-mate Valtteri Bottas' maiden Formula One victory.
However, the 32-year-old Briton led the field in both opening practice sessions at a gusty Circuit de Catalunya on Friday (12 May) after reigning constructors' champions Mercedes unveiled several significant upgrades to the front end of their car for the first race of the European portion of the campaign.
"First practice was very, very good but in second practice the track changed and shifted quite a lot, so it was slippery and quite a lot slower for everyone - especially with the gusts of wind," Hamilton said afterwards. "It was massively challenging but still fun nonetheless.
"The team has done an amazing job with the upgrades and the car is working just as we expected. It's been a much better start to the weekend for me than in Sochi, so I'm very happy. We've just got to keep our heads down and keep working. We want to be number one."
Bottas was hot on Hamilton's heels during both sessions as Mercedes look to reassert their dominance over a Ferrari team that, after a decade without success, look more than capable of breaking the Silver Arrows' stranglehold on F1. While Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen managed to close the gap to the Mercedes duo in FP2 on softer tyres, the former was not entirely content with his performance.
"Today the conditions seemed to be quite challenging, but we can improve," he said. "I wasn't totally happy as I think a lot was left in the track and I didn't find it at the end. At the same time I feel the car is quick so I just need to get it right.
"Overall, the atmosphere is good, but obviously now I am more focused on what happened today. I think everybody struggled today. I don't know who brought more updates but I think what really matters is who brings the best ones."
One day after warning that he will be "more than happy to talk to anyone" regarding his future if he does not see evidence that struggling McLaren-Honda are ready to help him return to winning ways in 2018, Indianapolis 500-bound Fernando Alonso, who was unable to even start the race in Sochi after yet more engine trouble, suffered the ignominy of breaking down three corners into the installation lap of FP1 at his home race. He sat out the remainder of the session before finishing bottom of the pile after running for 21 laps in session number two.