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Friday, December 09, 2022

F1: Leclerc leads Friday practice for Spanish GP

MONTMELO. Spain ( Associated Press) — Formula One leader Charles Leclerc of Ferrari led both practices for the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday as Mercedes appeared to narrow the gap.

Leclerc had the best record in the two one-hour sessions. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton followed in their Mercedes, who have struggled to catch up with Ferrari and Red Bull this season. Both finished 0.2 seconds behind Leclerc.

Carlos Sainz posted the fastest four times in his Ferrari, followed by defending champion Max Verstappen for Red Bull.

Leclerc has a 19-point lead over Verstappen after five races, but Verstappen has closed the gap after back-to-back wins in Italy and Miami.

Teams often launch major upgrades to their cars at the Spanish GP with a handful of races already underway and this well-known circuit, where teams also test in the winter, is perfect for evaluating.

Ferrari hopes the improvements it has brought to Spain will help it match the speed Red Bull has enjoyed in the last two races, when Verstappen beat Leclerc.

“Hopefully (the change) will be good and enough to be in front of Red Bull again,” Leclerc said.

Verstappen said his team is not about to throw any surprises but plans to reduce the weight of the car.

“Our car is a bit fat, so we need to lose weight,” he said before practice on Friday.

Before the day, Hamilton and Russell said they expected Mercedes to make some gains at the weekend, although it could be difficult to contend for the trophy that Hamilton has won for the past five years.

The best result of the season for Hamilton, winner of 103 races, was third place in the campaign opener in Bahrain. British is sixth in the table with 34 points. Leclerc leads with 104.

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