Lewis Hamilton was fastest in practice for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after going two tenths faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Mercedes were always expected to be fast this weekend as they look to secure the constructors’ championship.
F1’s first practice session at Imola since 2006 proved rather uneventful as the drivers pounded around learning the track ahead of qualifying. Mercedes again keeping the run of topping Saturday morning going, Hamilton hasn’t driven at Imola since the 2006 race weekend.
His nearest challenger was Verstappen, who like Hamilton set his best time early in the session when the track wasn’t rubbered in as much. The Dutchman was almost two tenths ahead of Valtteri Bottas who ran wide at the second Rivazza.
Bottas and Verstappen had traded times early on before Hamilton spilt them and then improved on his second soft run to go fastest. Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly continued to deliver, the Frenchman making a late improvement to go fourth fastest and nine-tenths behind Hamilton.
Also making a late improvement despite understeer earlier in the session making his car “difficult to drive”, was Charles Leclerc. Giving Ferrari hope of having there best Italian race at a circuit named after Enzo Dino Ferrari, this season.
Renault appears to be best of the rest, Daniel Ricciardo just over a tenth faster than teammate Esteban Ocon. Daniil Kvyat was eighth fastest ahead of the Red Bull of Alex Albon, the British Thai driver was over a second slower than Verstappen and had several laps deleted in the early part of the session.
Albon was caught out for exceeding track limits at Piratella and at the exit of Variante Alta, but he wasn’t the only driver caught out. Over forty times were deleted for exceeding track limits.
Two teams which have been in the top ten consistently Racing Point and McLaren appeared to struggle. Lance Stroll only tenth fastest but almost three tenths up on his teammate Sergio Perez.
Sebastian Vettel looked as if he struggled for most of the session, before a late improvement moved him to twelfth, ahead of Romain Grosjean
McLaren looked to struggle to find their normal pace, Carlos Sainz running through the gravel at Rivazzi on his way to fourteenth. Teammate Lando Norris was sixteenth, with Antonio Giovinazzi fifteenth a tenth head of the Englishman.
Kimi Raikkonen finished seventeenth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Williams’ George Russell, who struggled with some set-up changes made on his car through the session. Kevin Magnussen was nineteenth and Nicolas Latifi had limited running because of a brake issue.