FP1: Bottas quickest, top three separated by 0.1s

Michelle Foster
Valtteri Bottas soft tyres

Valtteri Bottas says Mercedes' advantage over the pack on Friday at Monza was slightly surprising.

Valtteri Bottas was quickest in FP1 for the Belgian GP but, perhaps more importantly, Max Verstappen in third was just 0.081s down.

Compromised downforce, tyres a step softer than in 2019 and a slight chance of rain, that set the stage at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

The teams hit the track on Friday morning with Red Bull running aero rakes and swapping out front wings while last year’s Belgian GP winner Charles Leclerc clocked the first lap time, a 1:47.033, and McLaren worked with its drivers on what to do if its pit stop lights failed.

Engineer to Carlos Sainz: “After you stop on the marks, once you switch the engine off, Carrie will demonstrate the hand signal he would use for ‘stop’ and ‘go’ if we had a problem with the traffic light.”

Running a small low-downforce rear wing, Max Verstappen reported to Red Bull that his RB16’s “front end feels quite strong”. Romain Grosjean, though, had bigger problems with “no power on throttle application” as he slowly toured the track.

Verstappen hit the front with a 1:45.470 with Lewis Hamilton second, half a second down, and Valtteri Bottas a further two-tenths back. Bottas upped his pace to sit second, Sergio Perez moved up to third with Hamilton fourth ahead of Lando Norris and Lance Stroll.

Norris was a bit in the wars in the first half of the session, first running wide at La Source and then having a moment with Pierre Gasly that had the AlphaTauri driver complaining about the McLaren man.

Hamilton, lapping on the medium tyres, went quickest with a 1:45.298 while Leclerc, on the hard tyres, told Ferrari that his tyres were “dead” after only nine laps.

With the drivers into the pits to swap their first set of tyres for a new set, Haas were in trouble with Grosjean having just two laps on the board, and his car stuck in the garage with what looked to be a power unit issue, and Kevin Magnussen having completed only one lap. The Dane also had a PU problem.

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Haas confirmed shortly after: “The engine will have to be removed from Kevin’s car. Unfortunately he won’t be back out in FP1.”

The team added: “Sadly Romain’s session is also over. There’ll likely be a power unit change on his car too.”

The Haas team-mates and Antonio Giovinazzi were the only drivers who didn’t set lap times in the first 40 minutes.

As the drivers had a break back in their garages, 10 minutes of complete silence, the wind picked up and the grey clouds blew in with a few reports of a spot or two of rain.

Norris was the first driver back out on track, putting on a new set of soft tyres that saw the McLaren driver jump from sixth to first with a 1:45.274 while his team-mate Sainz was told his DRS issue “continues” with his signal to activate coming too early. Asked to DRS manually by using the boards, he overhauled Norris by 0.052s.

But as more drivers headed out on fresh soft tyres, Alexander Albon put his RB16 up into first lap before he was dropped by the Mercedes drivers. Bottas did a 1:44.493 with Hamilton lining up second, 0.069s down. The Finn’s session ended a few minutes early with a punctured tyre.

Verstappen put in an extremely slow out-lap on his soft tyres before putting in a fastest middle sector to go third, just 0.081s down on Bottas’ P1 time.

Perez finished the session fourth fastest ahead of Stroll, Albon, Esteban Ocon and Sainz. Daniel Ricciardo and Norris completed the top ten.

As for Ferrari, Leclerc was 13th, 1.266s slower than Bottas while Vettel was P14, a further 0.4s down. They were slowest of all the driver who set times excluding the Williams team-mates.

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:44.493 18 laps
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.069s 16 laps
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.081s 20 laps
4 Sergio Perez Racing Point 0.136s 21 laps
5 Lance Stroll Racing Point 0.375s 21 laps
6 Alex Albon Red Bull 0.556s 21 laps
7 Esteban Ocon Renault 0.606s 19 laps
8 Carlos Sainz McLaren 0.729s 23 laps
9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 0.732s 20 laps
10 Lando Norris McLaren 0.781s 27 laps
11 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri 0.954s 24 laps
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.010s 17 laps
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.211s 18 laps
14 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1.266s 18 laps
15 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.686s 15 laps
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1.995s 19 laps
17 George Russell Williams 2.077s 21 laps
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1 laps
19 Romain Grosjean Haas 2 laps
20 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 2 laps

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