Max Verstappen set the early pace as practice got underway for this weekend’s British Formula 1 Grand Prix, but all eyes were on Nico Hülkenberg – stepping in to replace Sergio Pérez at Racing Point for this race – who drove well in his first Grand Prix outing since last year’s season finale at Abu Dhabi.
Pérez’s absence – caused by the Mexican driver testing positive to COVID-19 Coronavirus – was the major news of this weekend, with the ex-Renault and former Force India driver Hülkenberg drafted in at short notice.
The German driver sported a decal-free black racing helmet and was one of the first drivers out on track as he sought to dial himself back in. By the end of the session he finished ninth-fastest, an impressive showing on his return.
Up at the top of the timesheets, Verstappen looked rapid in his Red Bull Racing Honda on Soft compound Pirelli tyres and posted a fastest time of 1:27.422. This was four-tenths of a second faster than championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who posted his fastest lap time on the slower Medium tyres with his Mercedes-AMG W11 fitted with a new MGU-K for the weekend.
Hamilton was just one-tenth of a second quicker than the leading Racing Point Mercedes of Lance Stroll, while Verstappen’s teammate Alexander Albon was fourth-fastest.
Charles Leclerc took the Ferrari fifth-fastest – seven-tenths of a second off Verstappen’s early pace – but by contrast for his teammate Sebastian Vettel it was a 90-minute session to forget. The German had an issue with his car’s intercooler and spent the bulk of the session in the garage.
Hamilton’s teammate and closest championship rival Valtteri Bottas was over a second off the pace, finishing sixth-fastest in the second Mercedes, ahead of the Renault duo of Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo.
Behind Hülkenberg, Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten in the AlphaTauri and was narrowly quicker than teammate Pierre Gasly.
The balance of the timesheets resembled something of a Noah’s Ark formation, with the McLarens of Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris ahead of the Haas Ferraris of Keving Magnussen and Romain Grosjean. The Williams’ of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi finished P17 and P19 respectively.
Alfa Romeo had an eventful session, with Kimi Räikkonen spinning his car off at the exit of Luffield while on a Hard tyre run. Just minutes later, teammate Antonio Giovinazzi had a wild, high-speed spin at Chapel. He was able to rejoin the circuit – depositing a significant amount of gravel on the track in the process – and having bad flat-spotted his tyres he then proceeded to shed tyre rubber and bits of bodywork trying to get back to the pits.
His actions triggered a red flag interruption and earned him a summons to the FIA Stewards.
|FORMULA 1 PIRELLI BRITISH GRAND PRIX 2020 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 1|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB16||1:27.422||27|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||1:27.896||+ 0.474||27|
|3.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||1:28.004||+ 0.582||22|
|4.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB16||1:28.129||+ 0.707||24|
|5.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||1:28.221||+ 0.799||22|
|6.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||1:28.519||+ 1.097||29|
|7.||Esteban Ocon||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||1:28.559||+ 1.137||26|
|8.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||1:28.575||+ 1.153||22|
|9.||Nico Hülkenberg||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||1:28.592||+ 1.170||23|
|10.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||1:28.868||+ 1.446||21|
|11.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||1:28.909||+ 1.487||24|
|12.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||1:28.988||+ 1.566||24|
|13.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||1:28.990||+ 1.568||22|
|14.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-20||1:29.532||+ 2.110||23|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-20||1:29.576||+ 2.154||25|
|16.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||1:29.746||+ 2.324||24|
|17.||George Russell||Williams Racing FW43||1:29.899||+ 2.477||23|
|18.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||1:29.925||+ 2.503||17|
|19.||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Racing FW43||1:30.703||+ 3.281||20|
|20.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||no time||2|
Image via Red Bull Content Pool