FP1: Bottas tops first practice in Spain for Mercedes ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton
Valtteri Bottas went fastest in the first practice session for the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who eclipsed title rival Lewis Hamilton in P3.
The session was paused briefly early on for a Nikita Mazepin off, and red-flagged with 15 minutes remaining as Robert Kubica – driving in place of Kimi Raikkonen in this session – beached his Alfa Romeo at Turn 10. As Barcelona didn't host pre-season testing for the first time since 2014, drivers were keen to test the track with the 2021 cars – and try out the re-shaped Turn 10 too.
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Beginning the session on hards –as did all others bar home favourite Fernando Alonso – Hamilton switched to softs halfway through to go top with a time of 1m18.627s, but his team mate Valtteri Bottas beat that with a benchmark of 1m18.504s. Bottas had a near-miss as he almost rear-ended a slow Carlos Sainz on the racing line, but fortunately avoided contact in the dying minutes of FP1.
Red Bull's Verstappen split the Mercedes with two minutes remaining, ending up just 0.033s off Bottas's benchmark with a late switch to soft tyres. Sergio Perez finished ninth overall, his session beginning slowly as he tested new aero parts on the RB16B.
FORMULA 1 ARAMCO GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2021
Practice 1 results
|1 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||1:18.504|
|2 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||+0.033s|
|3 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+0.123s|
|4 Lando Norris NOR McLaren||+0.440s|
|5 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+0.492s|
Lando Norris took P4 for McLaren, his team mate Daniel Ricciardo 14th, and Norris was followed by the Ferraris: Spaniard Carlos Sainz in P6 and Charles Leclerc ahead, in P5. Neither of the Scuderia drivers used softs but swapped from hards to medium tyres in FP1.
Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel bolted on softs to go fastest halfway through the session but, as others followed suit with tyre choice, he dropped to eighth behind seventh-place AlphaTauri racer Pierre Gasly.
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Gasly's counterpart Yuki Tsunoda missed part of the session stuck in the garage but emerged to set the 11th-fastest lap. Between Tsunoda and Vettel was Perez (P9) and Aston Martin's Lance Stroll in 10th.
As for Alpine, home favourite Alonso took 15th overall and Esteban Ocon 12th in the session as Alonso began on softs and ended on hards – his team mate (and all others bar the Ferraris) doing the opposite.
Nikita Mazepin brought out a brief caution four minutes into the session, locking up his Haas at Turn 8 and going into the gravel, before reversing out and back on to the track. The Russian finished 20th overall, his team mate Mick Schumacher 18th.
Splitting the Haas drivers, in P19, was Robert Kubica. He returned to drive FP1 for Alfa Romeo – in place of Raikkonen – and brought out the session's only red flag at the re-profiled Turn 10, carrying too much speed in and beaching his car in the gravel at the run-off with 15 minutes remaining. Antonio Giovinazzi finished further up the table, 11th overall.
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Roy Nissany took the place of George Russell at Williams and finished 17th, ahead of Schumacher but half a second off team mate Nicholas Latifi, 16th.
Join F1.com and tune in to live coverage as FP2 begins at 1500 local time as the battle between Mercedes and Red Bull continues to rage on.