Bottas leads the way in first Portuguese GP practice

Mark Sutton//Motorsport Images

Bottas leads the way in first Portuguese GP practice

Formula 1

Bottas leads the way in first Portuguese GP practice

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Valtteri Bottas set the early pace in Formula 1’s first official session in Portimao for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Bottas tamed the cool and slippery conditions to set a time of 1m18.410s — the fastest ever lap of the Algarve International Circuit — to beat Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to the top spot by 0.339s.

Both drivers were equipped with new control electronics to address the problem behind Bottas’s race-ending power unit failure at the preceding Eifel Grand Prix. Of the four other Mercedes-powered Racing Point and Williams drivers, only George Russell has also adopted the new parts, with the other three having already taken their second of a maximum of two electrics packs.

The two Mercedes cars were also running without the dual-axis steering device in anticipation of its ban next season. Both also reported heavy front-tire graining near the end of their medium-tire runs.

Max Verstappen was third quickest in a smoky Red Bull Racing car. The Dutchman, whose Honda power unit was belching oily smoke onto the track through the session, was 0.781s off the pace and one of several drivers to spin cresting the steep hill at Turn 4.

Charles Leclerc was fourth and 0.9s off the pace for Ferrari. The SF1000 is equipped with a new diffuser this weekend as part of Ferrari’s push to recover performance from its draggy 2020 car.

Alex Albon was half a tenth further back in the second RB16. The Thai was one of several drivers to have laps deleted for exceeding track limits, with Turns 1 and 4 hot spots for stewarding action. Drivers have been reminded by race control that at this circuit the curbs do not form part of the track and therefore two wheels must always remain on the tarmac.

Carlos Sainz was less than 0.08s further back for McLaren, the Spaniard describing the gripless “Tokyo Drift” conditions early in the session in particular when temperatures were low and the newly resurfaced circuit was at its greasiest.

Sergio Perez was 1.5s off the pace for Racing Point ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Daniel Ricciardo was ninth on a mixed day for Renault, with Esteban Ocon in the sister car withdrawn from the session late with smoke billowing from the back of his car. He was told not to change gear on his way back to his garage for repairs.

Pierre Gasly completed the top 10 for AlphaTauri but spent the final 20 minutes in his garage with a technical problem. Sebastian Vettel followed in 11th, the Ferrari driver ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Daniil Kvyat finished the session 13th ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, who is returning to the car after missing the Eifel Grand Prix with COVID-19.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi finished ahead of Romain Grosjean in 16th and 17th. George Russell was 18th ahead of Ocon’s smoky Renault and Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi.

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