Valtteri Bottas was fastest in first practice for the Tuscan Grand Prix, setting a 17.8 to go four hundredths faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Mercedes were expected to be the fastest at Mugello as F1 holds its first Grand Prix at the high-speed circuit in southern Italy.
Bottas was surprising half a second quicker than teammate Lewis Hamilton who was fourth. Normally the six-times champion is able to dial in quickly to new circuits, but he had a messy session including running wide at San Donato, which left him fourth.
Bottas’s early pace on the medium tyre put him fourth, before working his way to a 17.8, four seconds faster than in testing in 2012 and nine-tenths faster than the outright record. Charles Leclerc also made a strong start for Ferrari in their 1,000th Grand Prix going third fastest, two tenths faster than Hamilton.
The six-times champion appeared to find it difficult to get into a rhythm during the session. But for Mercedes, it was the fifth consecutive race weekend.
Leclerc has a new chassis this weekend following the damage in the crash on Sunday at Monza. His teammate Sebastian Vettel continued to struggle for pace, finishing thirteenth a second off the leading Ferrari, earlier in the session that he was “not happy” as his tyres were overheating.
The session proved rather uneventful, as the teams learnt the track which normally hosts the Italian Motorcycle Grand Prix. Although many drivers have some experience of the 5.2km circuit from testing or junior series, Friday morning was their first true experience of driving the 2020-spec F1 cars, around the quick, flowing lap.
Pierre Gasly fresh from his maiden win at Monza was best of the rest going fifth for Alpha Tauri, almost eight tenths off the pace. The Frenchman was a tenth ahead of Esteban Ocon and his teammate Daniil Kvyat. The circuit is expected to be different from Monza requiring lower downforce.
McLaren’s Lando Norris, while Alexander Albon took ninth for Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten in the sister Renault. Leclerc was the only Ferrari powered car in the top ten, Kimi Raikkonen going eleventh fastest for Alfa Romeo.
The only real drama of the session was when Romain Grosjean almost collided with Sergio Perez at San Donato, both angry over team radio from both drivers, although a collision was avoided. Carlos Sainz finished fifteenth for McLaren ahead of Williams’ George Russell and Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas car was seventeenth.
The biggest surprise was Racing Point, Lance Stroll only eighteenth after missing the beginning of the session, but he completed twenty-three laps. Sergio Perez nineteenth, Nicholas Latifi propped up the timesheets for Williams in P20, lapping half a second slower than teammate Russell and suffering a late spin at Poggio Secco.