Valtteri Bottas was fastest by three-tenths of a second going ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton in first practice ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix. The Finn set the pace after switching to medium tyres after Hamilton set the initial pace on the hard tyre.
The six-times world champion was then left unable to improve after reporting g graining on his tyres during some late laps in FP1, echoing messages from several drivers. But Bottas had no such issues which allowed him to retain his place at the top of the timesheets.
Bottas and Hamilton traded fastest times on the medium tyre, characteristically started fast with a 1:18.410. Bottas needs a win and a remarkable turn around to stop Hamilton claiming what appears to be an almost certain seventh title.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen remained Mercedes closest challenger in third, however, the Dutchman was still four-tenths behind Hamilton. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc put in a surprise performance with the team’s upgrades allowing him to spilt the two Red Bull’s.
Red Bull has been slowly closing in on Mercedes over the second half of the season, following the world champions’ decision to end development on this year’s car and focus on their 2021 car.
Leclerc spent most of the opening session focusing on the hard tyre and was one of several drivers to have minor spins as drivers got to grips with the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve.
Ferrari has brought their latest upgrade, a redesigned floor to the frontal aerodynamic changes around the front wing and nose that they have introduced over the last couple of Grands Prix.
Red Bull’s Alex Albon complained about the instability of the car through low-speed corners, going fifth fastest.
Carlos Sainz was sixth a tenth and a half behind Albon, McLaren focused on testing what they describe as a “slight hybrid” update package following its struggles at the Nürburgring.
Despite having a few times deleted for track limits, the Spaniard finished ahead of Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen, who followed in seventh and eighth place respectively.
Sainz also had several times deleted for exceeding track limits, but the team were just under a tenth quicker than their main rivals Racing Point, with Sergio Perez seventh. The surprise was Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo, he went eighth fastest a tenth quicker than Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Pierre Gasly rounded out the top ten, the Alpha Tauri driver a second and seven-tenths off the outright pace. Sebastian Vettel continued to struggle with his Ferrari, still not finding the pace and almost beaching the Ferrari after an error at Galp.
Lando Norris was twelfth fastest ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen. Lance Stroll on his return after testing positive for Coronavirus was fifteenth, surprisingly off the pace given Racing Point has consistently performed in the top ten.
Antonio Giovinazzi was sixteenth ahead of Romain Grosjean. George Russell was eighteenth ahead of Esteban Ocon, the Renault driver suffering a mechanical issue. Nicholas Latifi rounded out the field, three seconds off the pace