Bottas leads fire and crash-marred Portuguese GP practice

Zak Mauger/Motorsport Images

Bottas leads fire and crash-marred Portuguese GP practice

Formula 1

Bottas leads fire and crash-marred Portuguese GP practice

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Valtteri Bottas stayed quickest for Mercedes after two red flags prevented drivers from completing their practice programs in the second practice session for the Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao.

Bottas, his time of 1m17.940s half a second quicker than second-placed Max Verstappen, was one of only a few drivers to set a competitive time on the soft tire before two long suspensions interrupted proceedings.

The first interruption came halfway through the 90-minute session when Pierre Gasly pulled to the side of the road with his AlphaTauri ablaze (pictured above).

The Frenchman’s car had been held in its garage for part of first practice with a technical issue and the Honda-powered cars had been periodically belching smoke through the day, but no reason for the sudden and fiery end to his day was immediately forthcoming.

Gasly has already used his maximum allocation of power unit components. Any additional parts will incur a grid penalty.

The session resumed with 29 minutes remaining but was suspected only five minutes later when Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll crashed at Turn 1.

Verstappen was attempting to use DRS to glide past Stroll down the main straight, but a lack of battery power meant he got only halfway alongside the Racing Point car by the time they reached the braking zone. Both drivers committed to the corner, the Dutchman apparently expecting Stroll to yield and the Canadian seemingly unaware Verstappen would be taking the apex, and wheels collided.

Stroll was spat into the gravel, his car beached and requiring red flags to be recovered, while Verstappen was left to angrily limp back to his garage. Both remained under investigation after the session.

The track reopened with only eight minutes on the clock, allowing only a handful of final flying laps. This meant Verstappen to hold second on the time sheet despite his crash.

In total, drivers had less than half an hour of representative practice time, having sacrificed the first 30 minutes of the session to test Pirelli’s 2021-specification tires and losing another approximately 32 minutes to red flags.

Lando Norris was a late improver on the soft tire to end the day third and 0.8s off the pace ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Their respective teammates, Carlos Sainz and Sebastian Vettel, followed in fifth and sixth.

The burnt-out wreckage of Gasly’s AlphaTauri had the seventh-best time ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who was unable to set a representative time on the soft tire amid the interruptions.

Esteban Ocon finished ninth, the problems afflicting his Renault during first practice diagnosed as a simple oil leak, and Alex Albon ended the day 10th for Red Bull Racing.

Williams drivers George Russell and Nicholas Latifi were 11th and 14th, split by Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo. Kimi Raikkonen followed in 15th for Alfa Romeo ahead of Haas driver Kevin Magnussen.

Daniil Kvyat was an early spinner on the slippery surface on his way to 17th for Alfa Romeo ahead of Romain Grosjean’s Haas.

Stroll finished 19th ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi at the foot of the time sheet.

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