Otherwise, the redesign was more than effective in making the track faster, with Verstappen setting an FP1 pole time of 1:14:606. His lap was over five seconds faster than what Charles Leclerc managed in 2022 when he topped the first practice session.
On top of that, Max was also almost 0.8 seconds faster than Checo. This paints a concerning picture of the Dutchman going through a season in which not even his teammate can challenge him, let alone the rest of the grid. Albeit, this seems to be the case of Max running a qualifying simulation while others were busy gathering data regarding the upgrades most of them brought to Barcelona. This includes Perez, as Red Bull did not come empty-handed to the Spanish Grand Prix either.
Hopefully, this change also means more overtakes will occur, making the Spanish GP less of a procession. Granted, we cannot really presume much from just the practice sessions. But we can see what the turn 14/15 complex meant in previous races. It caused the pack of cars to compact at the apex, allowing the leading car to get on the throttle early, preventing a potential move into turn one.
This leads us to the second practice session, which saw times improve by quite some margin. Most teams seemed to have switched on their pace, possibly going for qualifying simulation runs. The battle for the top five spots was a constant juggle right from the start of the session, with even Nico Hulkenberg in his Haas putting in an impressive lap. In fact, Hulkenberg did such a great job that he ended the session third, only bettered by Alonso and, of course, Verstappen, who topped the session with an impressive lap that only took 1:13:907 to complete.
The top five was rounded up by Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, both around three and a half tenths slower than Verstappen. The biggest upset was the result achieved by Ferrari. Both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc looked mighty quick at the start of the session but were dispatched over time. Leclerc managed to take P6, beating the Spaniard and relegating him to P7 in front of his home crowd.
The top 10 was rounded up by George Russell, Valtteri Bottas, and Pierre Gasly, with Lewis Hamilton just missing out and ending up in P11. What's more impressive than the grid order of the session is how closely packed the field was, with the first ten drivers only separated by about half a second. Regardless of how far ahead Max is this season, it's encouraging to see that we can at least enjoy a fierce battle in the midfield.
Up next came Nyck de Vries, who was fighting for his seat and barely managed to dispatch his teammate, Yuki Tsunoda, to 17th place. Stoll came next, followed by Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant, who put in an appealing time of 1:15:415.
The final interesting development in Friday's practice session pertained to Aston Martin. Fernando Alonso has been in top form throughout the season's first six races, casting a shadow of doubt over his teammate Lance Stroll.
This happened again in Barcelona, as Alonso outperformed Stroll yet again, beating him by almost a full second and 16 grid places in the second practice session. These performances from the Canadian driver definitely have to change if Aston Martin is to fulfill its hopes of challenging at the top.