FP1: Hamilton quickest as Verstappen splits the Mercedes in sole Imola practice session

IMOLA, ITALY - OCTOBER 31: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas

Lewis Hamilton went fastest in the only practice session for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola, as Red Bull's Max Verstappen split the Mercedes by posting the second quickest time, ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

With F1 returning to Imola for the first time since 2006, and with no Friday running this weekend, the teams wasted no time in sending their drivers out for the sole 90-minute session before qualifying, and it was Bottas who broke the silence first, followed by a steady stream of drivers on hard tyres.

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Hamilton bolted on soft tyres after the 45-minute mark to set a fastest time of 1m14.726s, which was eventually 0.297s quicker than Verstappen's on the same compound – leaving Bottas nearly 0.5s back as the chequered flag came out.

However, on the hard tyre runs, Verstappen was fastest with an effort of 1m15.912s early in the session for Red Bull. His team mate Alex Albon managed P9 overall in the session, 1.335s off Hamilton's pace.

Emilia-Romagna 2020

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FP1 Highlights: 2020 Emilia Romagna GP

Fourth place was taken by AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, who opted for soft tyres very late in the session for his flying runs. Team mate Daniil Kvyat followed suit to take eighth overall.

Charles Leclerc struggled with balance throughout the session but took on fresh soft tyres at the end of practice for P5 overall – just 0.055s behind Gasly. Leclerc's team mate Sebastian Vettel jumped from last to 12th for Ferrari with new soft tyres just before the chequered flag was flown.

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Renault's Daniel Ricciardo was bumped back to sixth thanks to Gasly and Leclerc's late runs, and finished a tenth quicker than team mate Esteban Ocon (P7). The team are hoping to bounce back from a middling Portguese Grand Prix and gain ground to McLaren and Racing Point in the fight for P3 in the championship.

In 10th and 11th were Racing Point's pair of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez, respectively.

IMOLA, ITALY - OCTOBER 31: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF1000

Charles Leclerc was damning about the Ferrari SF1000's balance but rallied at the end to take P5

Outgoing Haas driver Romain Grosjean was 13th ahead of McLaren's Carlos Sainz, with the papaya cars having had a quiet session. Sainz's team mate Lando Norris bolted on fresh softs at the end of the session but had his fastest lap deleted for overstepping track limits, so he was only 16th overall.

In 15th and between the two McLarens was Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi, with his team mate Kimi Raikkonen 17th – both drivers having just been confirmed to stay at the team for 2021.

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George Russell took 18th for Williams while team mate rookie Nicholas Latifi stopped with a brake-by-wire failure with around an hour remaining, but emerged again to take for 20th overall. Splitting them was Haas's Kevin Magnussen in P18.

So after the one and only practice session of this compressed Grand weekend, attention now turns to the fight for grid places for Sunday's race. Will Verstappen give Mercedes a fright on Halloween when qualifying rolls around at 1400 local time? Stay tuned to for live coverage and the latest news from the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.



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FIA post-race press conference – Monaco