FP1: Verstappen quickest as drivers struggle with slippery track in first practice in Turkey
“It’s like driving on ice,” said Max Verstappen, a statement echoed by his rivals as Formula 1 cars hit the track at Turkey’s Istanbul Park for the first time since 2011 in first practice, with Dutchman setting the pace in a Red Bull one-two…
The Turkish circuit was drafted back in F1 after Covid 19 forced sweeping changes to the 2020 calendar, leading to delight from the drivers who were excited by the challenge.
However, what they were not anticipating was just how slippery the 5.338km circuit would be, the lack of grip down in part to the surface having only been re-laid a few weeks ago and Pirelli bringing their hardest tyre compounds, having made their selection before it became clear new asphalt would be put down.
Valtteri Bottas set the early pace, but it was around 20 seconds slower than anticipated lap times, so tricky were the conditions as drivers worked the steering wheel hard in a bid to keep the car pointing in the right direction.
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FORMULA 1 DHL TURKISH GRAND PRIX 2020
Practice 1 results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:35.077|
|2 Alexander Albon ALB Red Bull Racing||+0.241s|
|3 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+0.430s|
|4 Pierre Gasly GAS AlphaTauri||+0.466s|
|5 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari||+0.543s|
The session was briefly red-flagged after Charles Leclerc knocked over a bollard, but when the session got going again, there was a flurry of activity as drivers headed out to try and learn as much as they could, even if the track was super slippery.
Verstappen then moved into top spot, ahead of Bottas, with Leclerc and his Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel looking more comfortable than most, as they slotted into third and fourth respectively.
There was frustration for McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard forced back to the pits when the team discovered a small electrical issue with his power unit. And though he got back out on track, he soon pulled to the side of the circuit – his session over.
As the session closed in on the final 15 minutes, the times started to tumble, with the Ferraris popping to the top of the charts, Leclerc one tenth quicker than team mate Vettel, but grip still remained at a premium.
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Several drivers had a spin, including championship leader Lewis Hamilton and his team mate Bottas.
Alex Albon then went quickest, the Red Bull going two-tenths quicker than the Ferrari duo, only to be usurped in the final 30 seconds by his team mate Verstappen, who went top even though had a moment running wide as he navigated by the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi.
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Leclerc held on to third spot, behind the Red Bull one-two, with Pierre Gasly sneaking ahead of Vettel to snatch fourth to continue his impressive run of form with the top five separated by just half a second.
Bottas was the leading Mercedes, but he was down in ninth, while Hamilton never really set a representative lap time, the Briton classified as 15th.