Valtteri Bottas was fastest in a chaotic and incident packed first practice session for this weekends Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver set a 16.564 going four hundredths faster than his teammate Sir Lewis Hamilton with the Red Bull of Max Verstappen third.
The Finn fastest lap came towards the end of the session when the 0two Mercedes managed to improve on the soft tyre pushing the Red Bull driver down to third. The hour long session saw serval drivers make mistakes as the top three fought to be fastest.
Many predicted a close fight between Mercedes and Red Bull, but Hamilton and Verstappen were very close with the expectation of another closely fought battle like in Bahrain.
Esteban Ocon set the first time, but the circuit improved by almost ten seconds by the end of the session. However, he would later crash with his former teammate Sergio Perez, bring out the red flag. What happened wasn’t clear, but it caused damage to the Red Bull’s rear left tyre and the Alpine’s front right.
Technical issues at the track meaning replays or on-board footage were in short supply, for broadcasters and teams alike, there was no confirmation on what actually happened until shortly after the session.
The stewards, ruling that there would be no punishment would be inflicted on either driver, released their verdict confirming the contact between the drivers, and former Racing Point teammates.
They ruled “Ocon slowed before Turn 5 in order to let Perez by, as well as moving entirely to the inside of the turn. Perez was on a fast lap. The two cars reached the apex at the same time and just barely touched wheels.”
“In the end, both drivers agreed in the hearing that it was an unfortunate miscommunication of timing between them, not helped by the fact that both drivers had limited or no communications with their teams at the time. Both drivers agreed that neither was at fault.”
Haas driver Nikita Mazepin had another difficult morning he crashed his car at the end of the session at Rivazza, which followed a spin at the same corner earlier in the session.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fourth fastest after technical issues saw him miss the first half of the session, his teammate Carlos Sainz also delivered a strong performance going sixth. The Ferrari duo being spilt by the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. The midfield group again appearing close.
Gasly’s team-mate Yuki Tsunoda, who was slowest of all, suffered what team boss Franz Tost said was “an electronic problem on the power unit, a wiring loom or something like this”.
Williams had been expected to target Imola as the type of circuit where they would look to score most of their points, Nicolas Latifi going seven fastest despite going off at Rivazza One, going a tenth and a half faster than Daniel Ricciardo in ninth.