FP1: New circuit, same Mercedes 1-2

Date published: October 23 2020

Valtteri Bottas

Formula 1 put in its first competitive session at the Portimao circuit on Friday but alas it had the same result as usual with a Mercedes 1-2.

Formula 1 hit the track on Friday morning in Portugal in near perfect conditions, at least compared to the Nurburgring two weeks ago, with gleaming black asphalt, cloudy skies and a track temperature of 25’C. However, the freshly laid asphalt meant grip was hard to find.

Sebastian Vettel was the first to post a lap time around the Portimao circuit, a 1:30.462, while Carlos Sainz was the first to have a lap time deleted as he exceeded the Turn 4 track limits. It’s incredible how little grip there is,” said the McLaren driver, adding “this is like Tokyo drift, incredible.”

Sainz finally made it stick, the P1 time down to a 1:21.497 while Max Verstappen slotted into second place, and then went spinning at the uphill right-hander at Turn 4. “Mate, this wing is completely wrong, it’s like a drift car,” he told Red Bull.

Despite it being a new circuit for the drivers it took 20 minutes before 19 of the 20, Daniel Ricciardo excluded, put in a lap.

Sainz upped his pace to a 1:20.696 with Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen and Charles Leclerc next in line ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean. The Haas driver was told earlier this week that he’s out of a job at the end of this year so needs to impress.

It was all-change at the top as Leclerc edged ahead at the 30-minute mark, a 1:20.410 for the Ferrari driver who is hoping that the Scuderia is finally making genuine progress with its SF1000.

Pierre Gasly took over at the front only to lose out to Lewis Hamilton, a 1:20.165 for the reigning World Champion. Leclerc followed his best lap time up with a spin and was lucky not to go a metre or two further into the grave. Bottas moved up to third ahead of Sainz, Gasly and Vettel. All the drivers ran the hard tyres for the first 40 minutes.

There were problems for George Russell, a driver whose seat may or not be under threat, as Williams furiously worked on the car, changing the floor. His team-mate Nicholas Latifi broke the silence, heading out on a set of the medium tyres while Russell patiently sat in his car.

One by one the drivers left the pits, some still on the hard Pirellis but most swapping over to the medium tyres. Daniil Kvyat complained about his medium tyres after two laps, saying he felt the need to cool them down because they were “graining already”.

Bottas hit the front with a 1:19.491 on the medium tyres before kissing the gravel with his rear left tyre. Hamilton was 0.035s slower with Leclerc 0.162s down as a few spots of rain fell. So too did a few spots of oil, seeming to come from the Red Bull of Verstappen which was also smoking a bit. The team, though, wasn’t overly concerned.

Hamilton took over from Bottas with a 1:18.874, 0.143s up on Bottas. Verstappen, still on the hard tyres, moved up to fourth. Then Bottas hit the front, the benchmark down to a 1:18.410. That put him 0.339s up Hamilton. Both Mercedes drivers ran the soft tyres.

Verstappen finished the opening practice session third quickest ahead, 0.781s off the pace, ahead of Leclerc, Alex Albon, Sainz and Sergio Perez.

Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo and Gasly completed the top ten with Vettel P11.

Raikkonen and Kvyat both had a late spin to briefly bring out the yellow flags while Gasly missed the final 10 minutes with a suspected gearbox issue. The big drama, though, was for Ocon whose session ended in smoke and with instructions to “box, box, box, don’t change gear”.

Times

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:18.410 medium
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.339s medium
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.781s hard
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.899s hard
5 Alex Albon Red Bull 0.955s hard
6 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1.031s medium
7 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1.497s medium
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.544s medium
9 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1.648s medium
10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.714s hard
11 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.790s hard
12 Lando Norris McLaren 1.797s medium
13 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri 1.868s medium
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 2.436s medium
15 Lance Stroll Racing Point 2.544s medium
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 2.599s hard
17 Romain Grosjean Haas 2.759s hard
18 George Russell Williams 2.964s hard
19 Esteban Ocon Renault 3.263s hard
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 3.644s medium

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