F1 Raceweek: Ferrari not expecting grid penalties over early engine changes

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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto does not expect early engine upgrades to result in grid penalties for Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel later in the season.

A slow start to 2019 has led to Ferrari pushing through changes for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, with Mercedes already 74 points clear in the constructors' championship.

Mercedes have secured a 1-2 finish at all four races so far, breaking a Formula One record, and Ferrari hope their engine changes can help them to close the gap in Barcelona.

Vettel and Leclerc will both race with new engines this weekend but Binotto thinks the early upgrades will not be costly later in the year.

"The early introduction does not mean that we cannot still use P1 in some races, that can be an option," Binotto said at Friday's news conference.

"But we are not hoping to have four engines per season per driver. Obviously when you are planning such a change in your schedule or planning, you need to [decide to] do it a few weeks ago. It's not something we decided last week.

"Having started the season in Melbourne we recognised that somehow we may have been late on our performance compared to our competitors."

Valtteri Bottas, who leads the championship standings after winning in Baku last time out, was the quickest in the first of two practice sessions on Friday.

But there were signs Ferrari's garage work could come to fruition on race day with Vettal and Leclerc not far behind ahead of defending champion Lewis Hamilton in fourth.

The early session ended under a red flag after Racing Point's Lance Stroll emerged unscathed from a big crash into the trackside barriers.

When the drivers emerged later in the day Hamilton was able to leapfrog the Ferrari duo, although he was not able to keep pace with team-mate Bottas.