Spanish GP a painful reminder for home hero Alonso

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The trend looked set to continue in Barcelona, as the Silver Arrows trailed Ferrari through Q1 and Q2, only for Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to step up in the pole shootout, the pair lapping 0.040s apart to secure the first Mercedes qualifying one-two of 2018.

"We are very pleased to have received preliminary approval towards bringing a Formula One Grand Prix to Miami", said Sean Bratches, Formula One's commercial managing director.

Home hero Fernando Alonso started the weekend a morale-boosting sixth, behind Raikkonen, with his McLaren displaying a heavily-revised three-pronged nose - one of several conspicuous upgrades around the pit lane. "It's important for me to get back into a good position in qualifying, it's usually a strength of mine".

Raikkonen was on a new engine after a problem with the one he used on Friday.

"It was very close in qualifying but very happy", said Hamilton. He had to retire and lost a lot of track time.

"I don't know, it's a bit like cruising to America and changing direction 100 times".

"The day was pretty good, but it was a tricky one because it was so windy out there", said the Briton, who was gifted a win in Baku two weeks ago when Bottas had a puncture in the closing laps while leading.

During the afternoon session when race pace simulations were conducted, the average pace of the top three teams (Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari) indicated little difference between the teams, on the supersoft tyre especially.

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The team had to make some modifications to Kubica's vehicle because the Polish driver doesn't have full movement of his right hand. "But I'm satisfied with the session and with how I reacted to hard conditions".

"It is nice to be back, but not an enjoyable auto to drive", said Kubica of his Williams.

Kubica, who had a spin toward the end of the session, finished with the second-to-last time - in front of teammate Lance Stroll. "It sounds unusual that you can be happy with P19, but actually I'm happy".

The session was marked by a fair number of clumsy spins and visits to the gravel trap for many drivers who appeared to caught out by the lack of grip of Pirelli's tyres.

Stroll almost hit the tire barriers after going off the track with about a half-hour left in the first session.

Magnussen qualified seventh. Grosjean was 10th in Q3, despite only being 0.2s adrift of his team-mate's time.

Vettel agreed, but then with the Saturday sweeties to come, he is never overly troubled by Friday's returns "It has been a tricky day with the tyres".

Hamilton tested a set of super-softs before the session ended with Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren, Frenchman Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso, the Force India pairing of Frenchman Esteban Ocon and Mexican Sergio Perez, and Frenchman Charles Leclerc of Sauber eliminated from the final round.