Max Verstappen continued his dominant form as he topped Friday’s opening practice as Red Bull seek their first British Grand Prix since 2012.
The Red Bull driver set the pace by 0.4 seconds ahead of his team-mate Sergio Perez, while Albon was the nearest non-Red Bull challenger in third place a further 0.04s down.
Amidst a bit of bouncing for most of the drivers not helped by lower tyre temperatures, Verstappen set the early pace with a 1:30.4, nearly a second up on Lewis Hamilton, who was running Mercedes’ revised front wing with its curved separators.
Grip complaints followed by another P1 for Max Verstappen
Verstappen complained after just five laps on the hard tyres that he had “zero grip” while Zhou Guanyu, having done a few installation laps, complained about his Alfa Romeo’s handing with the team working on the rear of the car.
Under-fire Nyck de Vries was the first spinner of the session as the AlphaTauri driver locked his tyres and went spinning into the gravel at Luffield.
Hamilton joined the “no grip” group despite being just three laps into his day’s programme as he fell to P5 behind Carlos Sainz, Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll.
Such was Verstappen’s prowess that midway through the session, despite being on the slower harder Pirelli tyres, he remained P1 with a 1:29.863 which put him 0.7s ahead of Charles Leclerc on the mediums with Sergio Perez on the harder compound a further 0.05s back.
Logan Sargeant in the Williams was the first to trial the soft tyres, the softest of Pirelli’s range on what was the hottest day of the British Grand Prix weekend, and he jumped up to third place before Sainz took over in P1 with a 1:29.357.
Further back Hamilton on the medium tyres was struggling with a lack of rear end grip, despite the new-look Mercedes front wing that was supposed to help with that problem, and he twitched his way to sixth place.
Sainz with the soft tyres took over at the front to lead a Ferrari 1-2 with Verstappen relegated to third before Charles Leclerc replaced his team-mate in the P1 slot with a 1:29.280.
Esteban Ocon jumped up to second place in the updated Alpine ahead of Sainz, De Vries and Pierre Gasly. And then Verstappen fired back on the soft tyres…
With a personal best in the first sector, purple in the second and personal best in the third, he clocked a 1:28.836 to regain the top spot ahead of Leclerc. Make that Alex Albon. The Williams driver shot up the timesheets to sit just 0.253s down on Verstappen.
With seven minutes to go all the drivers excluding Hamilton, George Russell and Lance Stroll had set a soft tyre run. “Bouncing is pretty bad, mate,” reported Hamilton.
The session ended with a P1 for Verstappen with a 1:28.600, 0.4s seconds up on his team-mate Sergio Perez, while Albon was the nearest non-Red Bull challenger in third place a further 0.04s down.
Fernando Alonso was P4 ahead of Leclerc, Ocon and Sainz.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:28.600
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.448
3 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.489
4 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.668
5 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.680
6 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.719
7 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.757
8 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.841
9 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +0.871
10 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.058
11 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +1.091
12 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +1.168
13 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.228
14 George RUSSELL Mercedes +1.274
15 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.490
16 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.492
17 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.524
18 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1.721
19 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.785
20 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +1.991